Safety Rashad Johnson, a coach on the field for the Cardinals, plans on coaching after his playing days are over.
The organized team activity had morphed into its 11-on-11 phase, although Rashad Johnson had been subbed out.
The veteran safety stood on the sideline as the Cardinals' offense broke the huddle, and as it came to the line of scrimmage, Johnson bellowed to his defensive teammates. He warned them of the exact short pass play that unfolded just seconds later – defended well, in part, because of Johnson's heads-up.
Johnson can study video and diagnose plays with the best of them. He's the guy second-year safety Deone Bucannon looks to first if
he has questions. He's the coach on the field, which has been his reputation – and his value – since he played at Alabama.
"It's something that makes me who I am," Johnson said. "It makes me that special player that's vital even if he's not a Patrick Peterson-type of athlete. Vital because he can help the defense as a whole because he knows the plays. He can help everyone play faster."
It provides an obvious segue for Johnson – entering his seventh NFL season – for whenever he finishes playing the sport. Coaching beckons.
That's been Johnson's plan for a long time. He wants to stay within the sport, and is willing to work from the bottom as an assistant. He admits he probably wouldn't even want to be head coach but a defensive coordinator. More importantly, it isn't the NFL Johnson yearns to reach. It's the high school level.
"I would be perfectly fine at a high school because I really have a desire to help young kids grow into men, help them transition, help them understand you can use football to develop character in life," Johnson said, although he acknowledged, "you can do that at the
NFL level as well. You never stop growing."
Johnson already does some coaching. Every summer he runs a kids camp back in his hometown of Sulligent, Alabama, passing on knowledge. And that doesn't include his work within the defensive backs room and on the sideline.
"He already talks about (coaching) quite a bit," fellow safety Tony Jefferson said. The intensity of studying the NFL game is difficult to understand for outsiders, Jefferson said, and it's a science Johnson has perfected. Calling out plays – like Johnson did during that OTA – is not an infrequent occurrence.
There was one game last season where Jefferson got the heads up from Johnson before a snap and the diagnosis was correct, allowing Jefferson to make the play. Jefferson admitted it took him some time to understand that Johnson was able to predict what was coming.
"He'll let me know, 'Trust me baby, trust me!' " Jefferson said. "You have to trust him. I've learned to do it."
The transition from Todd Bowles to James Bettcher at defensive coordinator should be eased with Johnson around. And someday – Johnson still hopes to eventually retire as a Cardinal – he plans to step into the coaching gig he's been headed toward all along.
"Once my time is over, I really feel the perfect situation will be there for me," Johnson said.
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