David Johnson couldn't help but think of 2017's season-ending dislocated wrist when he landed awkwardly on it Sunday against the Ravens.
The Cardinals' running back avoided serious injury, and now hopes the favorable injury news can pave the way to some better production on the field.
Johnson is preparing for his third game in coach Kliff Kingsbury's offense, and while the opener was encouraging, he was not much of a factor in Baltimore. Johnson carried the ball seven times for 14 yards and a touchdown with just one catch for no gain.
The Panthers and their talented front seven arrive in Week 3, but Johnson remains optimistic he can return to the star status he held in the first two years of his career.
"I'm always going to have that mentality that it's going to be my breakout game," Johnson said. "I had a chance. I should have done it the last two weeks. I need to capitalize on the opportunities that I get."
Johnson was an All-Pro in 2016 and talks often about returning to that rarified air. Kingsbury, who wasn't the coach then but has watched old tape, was asked if Johnson is running any differently at this point in his career.
"I don't know if there's any difference," Kingsbury said. "First two games, we haven't gotten him in a rhythm, obviously, and they've been passing games because we've been behind the entire time. We've got to get him going early and into the game more."
Johnson has the highest cap hit among running backs in the NFL this season, and thus gets criticized after underwhelming games, even when he only gets eight touches. Johnson isn't fazed by the outrage.
"There's always people saying stuff," Johnson said. "I've learned how to ignore it."
One thing that bothers him is the Cardinals' lack of success in the red zone. He went out of bounds a yard short of the end zone in the opener against the Lions and the Cardinals couldn't score on their next two attempts. They were just 1-of-4 scoring touchdowns inside the 5 in Baltimore.
"That kind of stuff is irritating as an offense," Johnson said. "Especially for me, that when I get those opportunities I'm not capitalizing on it."
CAM NEWTON DOESN'T PRACTICE AGAIN
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (foot) missed practice for the third time this week and seems unlikely to play against the Cardinals. Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said it doesn't matter whether it's Newton or backup Kyle Allen in the game.
"Obviously certain quarterbacks have certain talents that you have to prepare for, but overall game plans are based on what they're doing offensively from a running game and passing game perspective," Joseph said. "It's not about one player. It's about the entire offensive scheme."
Linebacker Bruce Irvin (hamstring), defensive end Kawann Short (shoulder), safety Rashaan Golden (groin) and tackle Brandon Greene (neck) also missed practice on Thursday for Carolina.
For the Cardinals, Chris Jones (ankle) was added to the injury report and practiced in a limited capacity. The Cardinals are still without starters Patrick Peterson (suspension) and Robert Alford (leg), so the positional depth will be further tested if Jones is out or limited.
Defensive tackle Corey Peters (knee) and linebacker Jordan Hicks (groin) were upgraded to limited participation on Thursday, while defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard (hamstring), guard/center Lamont Gaillard (knee) and linebacker Ezekiel Turner (hand/hamstring) did not practice.
MURRAY 'ALWAYS' HAS FREEDOM TO CHANGE PLAY
Quarterback Kyler Murray was regularly making adjustments at the line of scrimmage against the Ravens in his second career game. Pass game coordinator/quarterbacks coach Tom Clements said those checks are "always" available to Murray.
That can be rare freedom for a rookie, but Murray's comfort level in the Air Raid offense makes it possible.
"He's been doing it for years before he got here," Clements said. "They are a very, very similar offense, so he's used to doing it, and he does it well, so we'll keep on doing it."
Images from practice at the Dignity Health Arizona Cardinals Training Center.