David Johnson has gone from the focal point of the Cardinals' offense to an afterthought, and unsurprisingly, it's been a difficult adjustment.
The former All-Pro running back was on the field for only nine snaps in Week 11 against the 49ers and never touched the football. Kenyan Drake figures to be the main ballcarrier on Sunday against the Rams, and now with Chase Edmonds back from injury, Johnson's role is unclear.
"It's obviously been hard," Johnson said. "In the past I was in the majority of the snaps. It's been rough. I've just got to move past it and make the most of every opportunity."
Johnson said he has spoken with the coaching staff about his dwindling playing time, but wants to keep those discussions private. He said the coaches have not defined his role this week, which is "obviously" frustrating.
"If you're any football player, they all want to be on the field as much as possible," Johnson said. "It's rough, but it's football. There's always adversity. It's really just how you handle it."
Johnson is averaging only 3.7 yards per carry this season but does have 31 catches for 323 yards and three touchdowns, remaining one of the best pass-catching backs in the NFL. Johnson, who will turn 28 in mid-December, does not think he is a lesser player than the one who took the league by storm in 2015 and 2016.
"No, I don't," Johnson said. "Obviously I was dealing with injuries, and that's rough, but that's part of football. Everyone has injuries, especially toward this time of the year, so it's really how you play with the injuries."
Johnson doesn't believe the accumulation of hits he has absorbed over the years has slowed him down. At this point, he is motivated to get back on the field and prove critics wrong, something he has done successfully in the past.
"I've been here before," Johnson said. "It hasn't stopped me. Coming from Iowa and not (being) a big Iowa recruit. I've been here coming into the league (as a third-round pick). It's nothing new."
JORDAN MILLS DESIGNATED TO RETURN FROM INJURED RESERVE; ALFORD WAITS
The Cardinals designated right tackle Jordan Mills (knee) to return from injured reserve, coach Kliff Kingsbury said. Mills was placed on IR on Oct. 5 and will be eligible to return against the Steelers on Dec. 8. It remains to be seen if he will be activated.
Mills rotated at right tackle with Justin Murray for three games before suffering the injury.
"We'll work through it the next couple of weeks and see how he responds," Kingsbury said. "We're going to get him some more reps, see how he moves around, and then make a decision from there."
Kingsbury said no decision has been made on the possible return of cornerback Robert Alford, who has missed every game this year with a broken leg.
"Still out," Kingsbury said. "We don't want to shut the door on it completely just yet, but he won't be available this week."
Alford said he would still like to return even if it was at the very end of the season, but admitted there are still boxes to check before returning to practice.
"We're getting close," Alford said. "We're getting really close. We're progressing each week to get back on the field. If the time presents itself, and we have one or two games left, yes, I will be back out there."
CARDINALS COULD HAVE EVERYONE AVAILABLE AGAINST RAMS
Defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard (foot) returned to practice on Wednesday, meaning everyone on the 53-man roster could be available on Sunday. Kingsbury will still have to choose seven inactives, but it's possible they all could be healthy scratches.
Bullard was limited, as were Edmonds (hamstring) and defensive tackle Corey Peters (not injury-related). Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and outside linebacker Chandler Jones were given rest days.
The Rams conducted a walkthrough, but if they practiced, safety Marqui Christian (knee), tight end Gerald Everett (knee), tackle Rob Havenstein (knee) and defensive back Darious Williams (ankle) would have sat out.
The Cardinals were invited to a birthday gathering at the Phoenix Children's Hospital on Tuesday