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Johnson Aims to Seize Opportunity


As soon as wide receiver Ron Johnson signed on with the Redskins as a free agent on Jan. 30, he decided to be more proactive about his football career.

No more sitting back as others determine his future, he told himself.

No more getting overlooked.

Johnson had entered the NFL in 2002 as a fourth-round draft choice by the Baltimore Ravens.

He opened eyes early in his career, catching a touchdown pass in his first NFL game. Later in the season, he returned a blocked punt for another touchdown.

He has 11 career receptions for 114 yards, with a long of 33 yards.

In recent years, Johnson's stock may have dropped due to injuries and uncertainty about his role.

No more, Johnson says. Every chance he gets, he talks with associate head coach-offense Al Saunders and wide receivers coach Stan Hixon.

"I try to meet with coaches after practice and talk to them--I want to make sure there's feedback," Johnson said after a recent OTA practice at Redskins Park. "I ask, 'What's the plan for me?' Or I ask, 'Can I try this [pass route] out?'

"I want to be a little more vocal about what I can bring to the team. Hopefully, God willing, I'll fit in with their plans and I'll be here."

The Redskins appear loaded at the wide receiver position, with Santana Moss, Antwaan Randle El, Brandon Lloyd, David Patten and James Thrash among veterans on the roster.

Johnson knows he faces an uphill battle to earn a roster spot.

He believes he has two things in his favor.

First, his size. Standing at 6-foot-3, Johnson is the tallest wide receiver on the team. The Redskins have a group of speedsters under 6-0 in height, so there could be room for a taller, possession-type receiver.

"I'm just trying to show coaches what I can do to help this team win--whether it's working in the slot or being a red zone receiver catching a fade pass in the end zone," Johnson said. "David Patten told me, 'Every time I get a chance, just make a play.'"

He hopes his size and strength--he weighs close to 230 pounds-- will stand out come training camp.

"I think I'll be able to use my size and strength better when the pads come on, because right now we're not really hitting," he said. "I can't really use my size to my advantage because it's non-contact. When we get the pads on, I'll be able to [move cornerbacks] around. Size definitely gets noticed."

Secondly, Johnson hopes that coaches consider using him as a tight end in some passing situations. He was listed as a tight end in 2005 training camp with the Chicago Bears, his second NFL team.

"A lot of tight ends play around that weight now," Johnson said. "Linebackers are around 230 pounds, so I can work the matchup. In Chicago, I played both receiver and tight end and that's the niche I'm trying to fit into. I just want to find a spot where I can bring the most to the team."

Asked if the Redskins' new offense was easy to learn, Johnson smiled and replied: "It's definitely not an easy offense to learn--and I came into the league learning Brian Billick's offense in Baltimore.

"Everyone knows [Billick's] mindset is like a mad scientist in a lab or something. I thought his offensive playbook was huge, but Coach Saunders's is a lot bigger.

"It's a lot more intricate and there are a lot of little details that you have to pay attention to. It puts the defense on their toes and makes everybody think. You have to focus in every shift and every motion--and then you have to go run the route. It's a matter of studying every night and getting a feel for it on the practice fields."

Johnson, who played his college ball at Minnesota, is likely battling to be the team's fifth or sixth wide receiver.

The team has a large group of young receivers vying for playing time.

Returning veterans Taylor Jacobs, Jimmy Farris and Ataveus Cash are--like Johnson--hoping to establish themselves in the NFL this season. Richard Smith and Steven Harris recently returned from NFL Europe.

And undrafted rookies Derrick Fenner and Mike Espy hope to make an impression on coaches in training camp.

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