Johnson working hard to regain job for Raiders

Originally Published: September 30, 2004
Associated Press

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Teyo Johnson started five games for the Oakland Raiders last season as a rookie. He played in all 16. He caught 14 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown, all while learning a new position.

Now, he's on the scout team.

"This week, I'm Billy Miller," Johnson said, referring to the Texans tight end.

And he's trying to be a darn good Billy Miller, too -- doing everything he possibly can to convince Norv Turner and the Raiders' coaching staff that he won't disappoint if they activate him on Sundays.

"I know I can play and I know when I get my opportunity I'm going to play well," Johnson said. "I'm just waiting for that opportunity. The comforting thing is that I know when I get in there I'm going to play well and that I can make plays. I made plays last year as a rookie and I know I'm a lot better now than I was last year.

"It's a long season. It's definitely not starting how I wanted it to, but there's a lot of football left. I'm just trying to impress upon the coaches that I'm focused and doing the little things in order to get on the field."

The Raiders kept seven receivers and four tight ends, so everybody knew there would be an odd-man out each week.

Johnson seems to be handling his diminished role a lot better than he did late in training camp, when he complained about being fourth on the depth chart. The 6-foot-6, 260-pound Johnson, a second-round 2003 draft choice out of Stanford, believed he'd been demoted because he missed some voluntary camp work while visiting China on an NFL tour. Turner has said that's not the case.

Johnson was kicked out of one practice for fighting with linebacker Akbar Gbaja-Biamila. Johnson blamed the altercation on his frustration over being demoted.

The Raiders have never sat him down to discuss his status, and Johnson doesn't believe he needs to bring it up. He will play when he plays -- once he's earned that chance.

Right now, Johnson is playing behind veteran Roland Williams, Doug Jolley and rookie tight end Courtney Anderson.

Turner is trying to get Johnson involved on special teams.

"Teyo has really had two really good weeks. I'm not saying that to say it ...," Turner said Thursday. "I think Teyo's ready to play and go, and the other guys are playing well. We're limited on numbers. My only thing is keep growing and keep working on the things you're doing. There's going to come a time in this season, it could be in a week, it could be three weeks, where he's going to be up, he's going to be playing, and we're going to be throwing the ball to him."

This is new for Johnson, a converted receiver who left Stanford early to enter the NFL draft. Until this season, he'd never missed a game in any sport. He was a star quarterback and power forward in basketball at Mira Mesa High in the San Diego area.

"Dealing with it is difficult. It's definitely humbling," Johnson said. "The veterans have really been supportive of me. (Tyrone) Wheatley was telling me how last year he was inactive for the first three games and that 'You've just got to be a pro and stay positive and keep your head up because you'll get your chance.' It's not difficult when you're around a bunch of guys that you like and you enjoy practice, but it is hard on Sundays when your jersey's not up there in your locker."

He figures at least he's getting to face the first-string defense every day, which is helping him improve.

Turner appreciates that attitude.

"The biggest thing is Teyo's a young player. He really made a position change a year ago and he's learning how to play the position," Turner said. "Really, what we do is a lot different from what he did a year ago. It's just a matter of him growing. I think he has a good understanding of that."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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