Cardinals running back Chris Johnson (left) is recovering well from a cracked tibia and expects to play if the team makes the Super Bowl
When Chris Johnson learned the Cardinals were placing him on short-term injured reserve Dec. 1 – keeping him out until the Super Bowl if the team makes it -- he responded the same way any player would.
"Of course I tried to talk them out of it," the veteran running back said with a smile.
The NFL's fourth-leading rusher at the time, Johnson suffered a cracked tibia against the 49ers on Nov. 29. The original diagnosis was less severe but a second look caught the fracture, putting a damper on his renaissance season.
The prospect of returning is at least a dangling carrot, and Johnson was full of optimism on Tuesday in his first interview since the announcement. Johnson had just finished running in the pool prior to meeting with reporters and is confident he will be available should the team make the Super Bowl.
"I was really relieved once I went into the MRI and saw no structural damage, no ligament damage," Johnson said. "It was just a cracked bone. I knew I'd be pretty good and I'd be able to come back and play if the Lord's willing and we make it to that game."
The recovery time was blurry enough that the team had a decision to make after the injury – keep Johnson on the active roster so he could return once physically able, or use the injured reserve/designated to return slot for roster space.
Johnson said he may have been able to return quicker if allowed.
"It definitely wasn't a health thing," Johnson said. "I'm not sure. They probably didn't think I'd be feeling this good as quick as I am. The main thing, with the scenario they went through last year with so many people getting hurt, they were probably thinking about that roster spot (being too) important to hold for so long, not knowing how quick I'd be able to get back."
Johnson said he didn't fully understand how long he'd have to remain sidelined when first told of the decision.
"I was thinking I'd be able to come back for the playoffs," he said. "Nothing I can do about it right now, and I understand it's not about me. It's about the team and hopefully we get to that game."
Rookie running back David Johnson has 41 carries for 191 yards and a receiving touchdown in two games as the starter since Johnson went down.
ELLINGTON UNLIKELY TO PLAY AGAINST EAGLES; POWERS OPTIMISTIC
Running back Andre Ellington was injured soon after Johnson in San Francisco, and while he will be back at some point, that timetable is still up in the air. Coach Bruce Arians was hoping it would be Sunday night against the Eagles, but Ellington doesn't seem too confident that will happen.
He is awaiting clearance from the training staff to return to practice, but admitted the location of the injury makes it tough.
"It's just a toe, but at the end of the day, I play running back," Ellington said. "I need that. I need both of my (big) toes. It's kind of limiting me a little bit from being the type of player I am. Once I get it right, I'll be fine."
Cornerback Jerraud Powers (calf) was injured in the 49ers game as well, but he said he is confident he will return after missing the past two games. The availability of defensive tackle Frostee Rucker (ankle) is less certain after missing the past three games.
"I feel good about Jerraud," Arians said. "We'll wait and see on Frostee."
MICHAEL FLOYD FLYING HIGH
After failing to reach 60 receiving yards in a game over the first seven weeks, wide receiver Michael Floyd has passed the century mark in four his past five outings. In Thursday's win over the Vikings, he had five catches for 102 yards and a touchdown.
If not for a hand injury early in the season and a hamstring strain which slowed him more recently, the Cardinals could have been staring at three 1,000-yard receivers this year. Larry Fitzgerald has already surpassed the mark while John Brown is just 105 yards away. Floyd has 40 catches for 652 yards and six touchdowns this year.
Arians said a healthy Floyd would have reached the 1,000-yard mark '"easily."
"He's making those 50-50 balls higher than 50-50," Arians said. "You do that, and the quarterback throws to you more often. He's practicing extremely well and he's playing at a high level right now."
Images of the Cardinals cheerleaders during the Week 14 home game against the Vikings