“I tend to lead by example, but there will be times when something needs to be said, no doubt,” Johnson told Detroitions.com. At that point, I can say something. It would more than likely be within my receivers group, but there are times when something has to be said to the entire team and that’s my duty now.”
It’s his duty as captain.
For the first time since joining the Lions in 2007 as the No. 2 overall pick, Johnson enters this season as one of six team captains as voted by his teammates on Monday. The others were
“He’s always been viewed as the captain,” Burleson said of Johnson. “He was more of a quiet captain in years past. He’s been a guy that leads by example.
“This year, the reason he was voted captain was not because of the Madden cover. It wasn’t because of the two Pro Bowls or being named All Pro. It was more about his approach this offseason. He came in and was more verbal.”
Johnson didn’t have to take it upon himself to be more of a vocal leader. He could have continued plodding along setting records, being a model citizen and letting his play on the field do the talking. He even could have let the $132 million contract he signed this offseason represent the respect he should garner from teammates.
“He could be a complete diva and not say anything and no one would blame him for it,” Burleson said. “We’d all just say, ‘He’s playing, it’s okay, that’s how he is. We’ll let him slide.’
“But I just think him being older and realizing he’s here for the long run, he’s starting to establish himself as guy that not only you can watch to see how it’s done, but go up and talk to him and ask questions.
“Six year’s in you’re a veteran of the team. You’re one of the older guys now. He’s not just the young star. He’s the franchise now.”
Johnson knew his role had to be different as a veteran and he’s embracing it.
“Since getting here, I think I’ve definitely developed in a lot of ways,” he said. “Just from being around (receivers coach) Shawn Jefferson, from the lessons he teaches us through football that will affect you in life as well.
“Those things can be taught to other guys and there are some good things that he gives us that should be spread around or told to some of the other guys.
“Having that ‘C’ on my jersey is cool. That’s respect from your peers. That’s one thing for me to strive for – respect – and that’s cool. It’s definitely an honor just to be able to wear that.”