In March, NFL running back Chris Johnson endured one of the scariest moments of his life: he was shot in the shoulder during a drive-by shooting in Orlando, Florida – an incident that claimed the life of one of his best friends.
“It was a life-changing experience,” Johnson told Damon Amendolara and Jason La Canfora, who were filling in as co-hosts of CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “It . . . showed you how to enjoy life and how to enjoy every day waking up. Because just as easily as it was one of my best friends that was sitting right next to me – the one that got killed – it easily could have been me. So these days, I’m just enjoying life and making sure I enjoy each day.”
Johnson is also busy preparing for the 2015 NFL season. He is without a team but not without motivation.
Especially not after losing his friend.
“That gave me motivation and gave me something to look forward to – and that’s football,” Johnson said. “Anytime you go through life-altering situations, you always have football to go back to, to look forward to that, to work out for that. When all that happened, me being on bed rest for six weeks and then going through that and losing 20 or 25 pounds – I was down to like 180. So by me being able to leave Florida and go to California to work out, working out with Jay (Glazer) and those guys, I ended up gaining all my weight back and getting even heavier. I got up to 207 pounds and then throughout that just working out and wanting to be right at 200 – I ended up working it back down to get right at 200. Right now, it’s just sitting and grinding and working out. I’m just ready to see where my next situation is going to be and making sure it’s going to be the right situation.”
Johnson has rushed for 1,000+ yards six times in his career but last year was limited to a career-low 663 yards on a career-low 155 carries in New York. In fact, the 155 carries were 96 fewer than his previous career-low, the 251 he had as a rookie in 2008.
Did the Jets mislead Johnson about his role with the team?
“Yeah, I would say that,” Johnson said. “Just going in there (and) talking to them and meeting with them, I was told something different. But I just got to deal with whatever I had to deal with. We were losing. Me going in there and complaining about the ball, that wasn’t going to help anything. I think it kind of helped me last year because I was coming off an injury the year before. So it kind of helped me get my legs back. So on top of that, it helped me mentally. Instead of me worrying about how many carries I was getting, my whole mentality was each carry that I get or each opportunity that I get, I just got to take advantage of it.”
He did. Johnson, who has played in 16 games in six straight seasons, averaged 4.3 yards per carry in 2014.
“I just focused on taking advantage of every opportunity I did get,” he said. “I just kept my mouth closed and kept advantage of every situation that they gave me.”
Johnson, who turns 30 in September, believes he’ll sign with a team before the season.
“Right now is kind of a dead period,” he said, “but things should pick back up when (camps start). I’ve just been working hard, getting back healthy, getting in shape. Now it’s just waiting and working out and seeing what my next situation is going to be.”
Johnson is also determined not to let the incident from this past March get the best of him.
“It was a situation (where I was) at the wrong place at the wrong time,” he said. “I have a record label, (and) I was . . . going by the studio just to hear a song before I went home to get my stuff together and fly out (to California). It was pretty much . . . wrong place at the wrong time. So it’s nothing to really be paranoid about or anything like that. I still live my life. I live my life to the fullest. Right now, my main focus is on working out and spending time with my family and my kid.”