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Jerrod Johnson’s unusual path leads him to Seahawks’ rookie minicamp
During the 2012 preseason, Jerrod Johnson completed 14 of 21 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns while playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The summer before that, he completed both his preseason passes while with the Philadelphia Eagles.
But that has been the extent of Johnson’s NFL experience, so the 6-foot-5, 251-pound quarterback will be under center when the Seahawks open their three-day rookie minicamp Friday. And yes, he’ll standout among the rookies that reported and took physicals on Thursday, a group that includes the 11 players who were selected in the NFL Draft two weeks ago, nine rookies who were signed as free agents after the draft and another 45 hopefuls who will at the minicamp on a tryout basis – including two other quarterbacks, Murray State’s Casey Brockman and McMurray State’s Jake Mullin.
Talk about a win-win situation for Johnson and the team. The three minicamp practices will give Johnson a chance to be the No. 1 quarterback, after working behind Russell Wilson, Brady Quinn and Josh Portis the past two weeks during Phase 2 of the veterans’ offseason program. The offense, meanwhile, will be in the hands of a QB who has been learning the system since signing with the Seahawks late last month.
“It’s kind of a blessing in disguise, the fact that I’ve been through this for a couple of years and I’m technically still a rookie,” Johnson said this week. “I’ve had two different (NFL) camps and some experience under my belt to really help give me an advantage in this thing, and I’m going to make the most of it.”
As for the team’s take on Johnson stepping in as “the starter” for this minicamp, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said, “It’ll be good work for him. One, to get back out there and take all the reps. Two, for us to be able to see how he performs.
“He’s done a nice job for us so far. So it will be great to see him.”
It has been awhile since Johnson got to “take all the reps.” In 2009, he beat out Ryan Tannehill – yes, that Ryan Tannehill – for the starting job at Texas A&M and passed for 3,217 yards. After having arthroscopic surgery on his passing shoulder during the offseason, Johnson returned as the starter in 2010. But he was replaced by Tannehill after throwing nine interceptions in the Aggies’ first five games.
Johnson signed with the Eagles as a free agent following the 2011 NFL Draft, but was released in August. He also was the first player selected in the 2011 UFL Draft by the Hartford Colonials, but the team folded and he was assigned to the Arizona Rattlers. He then signed with the Steelers in January of 2012, but the NFL team released him in August. Johnson then was with the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the UFL during the 2012 season that was postponed at midseason.
More importantly in the prolonged process that preceded him signing with the Seahawks, Johnson spent seven months between his NFL stints “re-learning how to throw a football from scratch,” as he put it. Johnson was working with former Texas A&M QB Kevin Murray in Dallas.
“I’d been doing it my whole life, but after I hurt my shoulder I had to pretty much re-learn how to throw,” he said. “I did that while spending time with Kevin, then I actually switched my grip up with Pittsburgh.”
Johnson said he lost his release point when he injured his shoulder at A&M. The result? “I couldn’t throw the ball 50 yards my senior year,” he said. “And that was my one big thing – my arm strength. So it affected me mentally. It affected how I played. It affected me at the combine. It affected a lot of things.”
For a passer, there aren’t a lot of things that can be worse than losing your release point.
“You lose your release point; it’s kind of hard to go against Big-12 defenses,” he said, able to laugh about the situation after what he labeled “a two-year process.”
“Several things have happened for me to get to where I am now, and I just feel so blessed and thankful for another opportunity.”
Johnson is a man of faith, and tied his future to that faith during his ordeal.
“I’m a Christian and God has a plan,” he said. “I feel all those things happened for me to learn how to throw the ball correctly.”
The proof of how that process is going will be played out on the Seahawks’ practice field, during a rookie minicamp.
“This is going to give me a chance to get some reps, get familiar with the offense and just kind of play football again,” Johnson said. “When you’re out for a while you just need those reps. There’s nothing like taking snaps from under center, just running the huddle and being in practice.
“You’ve got to get back in the groove of things when you’ve had time off.”