It was one of the most gruesome non-catastrophic injuries you’ll ever see, but somehow, David Johnson did not tear any ligaments in his knee during an awkward tackle against the Rams on Sunday. Johnson sprained his MCL, and while recovery will take six to eight weeks, he will avoid surgery.
This might be the happiest sprained MCL in NFL history.
“I’m feeling good,” Johnson said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I’m really feeling blessed after watching the video and seeing it. (To only sprain my MCL), I’m really feeling blessed. (I’m) just making sure that my knee is 100 percent. (That means) going to facilities and doing whatever they tell me. I do trust those guys, my trainers, to get me back 100 percent.”
A torn ligament would have been especially crushing given that the Cardinals (7-8-1) were out of playoff contention and beat the Rams 44-6.
Johnson, 25, will focus on rehab and making a playoff run next season. He played in the NFC Championship last year as a rookie, so missing the playoffs altogether is a strange feeling.
“For me, it’s tough,” Johnson said. “I’m young and I’m healthy – or was – and in my first year I made the playoffs. I’m very down on myself for not doing as much as I could to help us get to the postseason. I’m definitely going to do as much as I can this offseason to make sure that I’m ready for everything that’s thrown at me next year, whether that’s lifting weights, definitely getting in the playbook, learning and getting better for sure to get ready for next year.”
It’s hard to imagine how much more Johnson could have done. He rushed for 1,239 yards, caught 80 balls for 879 yards and scored 20 touchdowns (16 rushing, four receiving).
He did it all.
“A lot of fans would think that I’ve done it all, but especially in the beginning of the season what they don’t know is that I messed up on so many routes that I could have easily had 1,000 yards receiving,” Johnson said. “There’s two plays that I know for sure that literally is ingrained in my head. Against the Buccaneers where I had a route that I ran that whole week going into that game and I did not run it. And it was an easy, easy reception – it could have been – and Carson ended up almost throwing an interception off of it. That was one play. And then against San Francisco, there was another route where I had another opportunity to catch the ball and it was, again, another easy reception that I could have had. I probably would have scored. That stuff that people don’t pay attention to closely, that stuff really eats at me.”
Johnson, who also wants to improve as a pass-blocker, has modeled his game after Matt Forte, who, like Johnson, did not play for a powerhouse college program. Forte played at Tulane, while Johnson played at Northern Iowa.
“I grew up trying to emulate Matt Forte,” Johnson said, “but when I was very young – still in elementary – I was a big Emmitt Smith fan. I loved the way he played the game. But when I was young, it was really toward the end of his career, so I really couldn’t watch his prime time until I watched him on YouTube. But me growing up in the Midwest, I watched Matt Forte a lot, especially with his ability to catch out of the backfield and be lined up as a receiver. He was one of the guys that really kind of helped me on knowing I could also be a pass-catcher, not just a dominant running back.”