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NFL life has been big adjustment for Johnson

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NFL life has been big adjustment for Johnson

TUSCALOOSA | As a college All-American and All-Southeastern Conference performer, Mike Johnson had gotten rather used to the college game. The former University of Alabama offensive guard, in fact, got used to being one of the best.

Very little of that success, however, prepared him for his initial exposure to the NFL last weekend at the Atlanta Falcons minicamp.

'It was definitely a learning experience,' said Johnson, the final pick of the third round on April 23, the second day of the NFL Draft. 'It was a long weekend with long meetings and a lot of practice time.'

As a third-round draft pick, Johnson's place on the roster should be secure at least in the short-term. Johnson has yet to sign a contract with the team. The final pick of the third round in the 2009 draft — Wisconsin tight end Travis Beckum — signed a four-year, $2.36 million deal with a signing bonus of more than $600,000.

NFL teams don't give up on investments of that size too quickly, but Johnson nevertheless realized very quickly at minicamp that players are in greater supply than opportunities.

'You definitely got a sense of the business side of it. A lot of these guys are over 330, with big families, and you can see people are battling for jobs, for their careers,' said Johnson (6-5, 310 pounds). 'But at the same time, the veteran offensive linemen are helpful as far as teaching the younger guys like myself.'

Johnson said he stuck close to second-year lineman Garrett Reynolds, a fifth-round pick from the University of North Carolina a year ago. and Todd McClure, a 12-year veteran from LSU. But the dozens of faces Johnson encountered weren't all new to him.

He got reacquainted with Corey Peters, who was also drafted by the Falcons in the third round. Peters, a defensive tackle from Kentucky, battled Johnson for the last two seasons.

'He's a talented guy for sure,' Johnson said. 'There was a guy from Montana that was tough, too (Kroy Biermann). It was an eye-opener.'

Johnson said he also enjoyed hearing a familiar voice in the huddle, that of former UA quarterback John Parker Wilson. The Hoover native, now the Falcons' No. 3 quarterback, was one of the first congratulatory calls Johnson received after being drafted.

Johnson said he witnessed a one-handed catch made by former UA teammate Colin Peek, an undrafted free-agent signee at tight end, that was among the most talked-about plays of the camp. But while there were a few people he recognized, there was much more that he didn't.

'It's a lot to learn in terms of terminology. They tried to put a lot of stuff in at one time and see what would stick to me. I made a couple of mental errors, I jumped off sides once or twice, but overall I felt pretty good about it. They're looking for a versatile inside guy, with a nasty streak, and that's what I'm trying to bring.'

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