Known for his ability to accelerate, having run the 40-yard dash in 4.18 seconds prior to the NFL draft nine years ago, new Ravens cornerback Chris Johnson is involved in a different sort of race this week.
Johnson, 33, has just a few days to learn the Ravens' defensive playbook in time for Sunday night's AFC North clash against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"I'm here to help out and be part of the puzzle," said Johnson, a former Oakland Raiders starter with eight career interceptions. "Coming from Oakland, I played a lot of man to man. Here, it's a different type of terminology. I pride myself on learning on the run and learning to play well. I'll probably play both defense and special teams, probably some nickel and sub packages."
A 6-foot-1, 200-pounder, Johnson anticipates playing outside and not against slot receivers considering he hasn't done that before. Corey Graham is slated to start at cornerback with Jimmy Smith sidelined after sports hernia surgery, and Chykie Brown will operate as the primary nickel back.
"I always played outside," he said. "I leave the slot to the little guys. I always had speed. One thing my coaches told me is you can't teach speed, but you can teach everything else. One thing I pride myself on is keeping my speed and being at the right place at the right time. I try to be physical, but, if they try to outrun me, I still have my speed."
Signed to a one-year, $825,000 contract with no signing bonus Tuesday, a deal that carries a salary-cap figure of $222,352 and a cash value of $339,705 for the remaining seven regular-season games, Johnson tried out for the Ravens on Tuesday along with cornerbacks Rod Issac and Terrence Johnson.
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Chris Johnson tried out for the Detroit Lions two weeks ago, but wasn't signed.
His agent contacted the Ravens immediately after starting cornerback Lardarius Webb tore his left anterior cruciate ligament and was declared out for the season.
"We wanted to let them know I was still out there, and they told me last Friday to come in to work out," Johnson said. "I ran well for them."
After being out of football since being cut by the Raiders -- he says at his request during the offseason -- Johnson said he's overjoyed to join a winning team in the thick of the playoff hunt.
"It's fun. This is the first time in my career I came in at midseason," said Johnson, a Texas native whose mentor is Deion Sanders. "It's exciting to be with a good organization. The organization embraced me like I was here the whole time since training camp. I'm proud to be here. I have good teammates to be around. I'm still catching up myself."