Lions hoping S Tyrell Johnson's speed can be a difference

Posted Dec 7, 2012

Johnson has a week or two to settle in and learn the defense, and when he's ready, Johnson thinks he can make some plays in the Lions' attacking defense.

Tyrell Johnson stayed after practice Friday and caught balls from the jugs machine for about 15 minutes, working on his technique and ball skills.

Those are just some of the little things a player has to do to get onto the field when they join a team 12 games into the season.

"He's a guy that we played against when he was with Minnesota so we had a little feel for him," Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said of Johnson, who the team signed as a free agent earlier this week.

"He had been cut in training camp by Miami and he had an injury the last two years of his career that sort of shut him down early.

"He's a guy that our front office had their eyes on; we worked him out earlier this year and thought that he could offer us something. He's got some experience, he's got great size. He's a guy that's been on our radar for a while and it was a good time to get him. We'll get him up to speed as quick as we can and see what kind of contribution he can make."

Johnson (6-0, 207) isn't expected to make an impact Sunday in Green Bay.

"He's not going to be ready for this game obviously, but he's got what you're looking for," defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said Friday.

That means Johnson has a week or two to settle in and learn the defense, and when he's ready, Johnson thinks he can make some plays in the Lions' attacking defense.

"I love Gunther Cunningham and I love the head coach and they have a mentality of never die and never quit," Johnson said. "That's who I am and I think that's infectious. Whenever you get more people like that inside one locker room, it's infectious. It changes the whole culture of things."

Johnson, 27, started 27 games in four seasons with the Vikings, including 15 in 2009, before a hamstring injury slowed him down. He says that injury is behind him now and he's ready to make the most of his newest opportunity.

"I just want to come in here and be the player I know I can be," Johnson said. "It would be different if I didn't think I could do it or whatever, but I know I can come in here and contribute and make big plays."

The Lions worked out Johnson earlier this season and liked his speed.

"Well, I scouted him hard when I was in Kansas City," Cunningham said of Johnson. "We were going to draft him and Minnesota took him before us. I felt at one stage, he could play corner in college. He's not that kind of guy, but he's got good speed, very good speed.

"He's a great character guy. Corey Williams and he are pretty good friends so I asked Corey all about him. We've tried to talk about it the last three or four weeks – Martin, Jim, myself – and we finally got him in here.

"Hopefully he makes it and he's had an injury and he's rehabbed from that. It was a pretty good hamstring. He looks good right now. He's got good footspeed, good speed overall so I'm looking forward to seeing him play."

Johnson will have the team's final three games to make an impression and earn a role heading into next year.