DeMarco Murray 29 Posted June 23, 2008 Share Posted June 23, 2008 IRVING, Texas -- Tank Johnson is finally at ease, comfortable again being a focus of attention. This time, he feels he truly does have a fresh opportunity. Sure, the big nose tackle got back on the field last year. But he got to play only half the season for the Dallas Cowboys, while also trying to acclimate himself to a new system and a new team after serving an eight-game NFL suspension resulting from legal troubles. Surrounded by reporters and cameras at his corner cubicle in the Dallas locker room Wednesday after the first of two minicamp practices, Johnson made it clear that he's ready to be a leader again -- and be in the middle of everything on the field for the Cowboys. Tank Johnson, DT Dallas Cowboys 2007 statistics: Games: 8 Tackles: 11 Sacks: 2.0 "I'm poised to be successful this year," Johnson said. "I'm starting from an even playing field, so I feel like I am confident about my abilities right now, getting back in a routine." And that also means being more outgoing again. His boisterous spirit is back. Johnson kept a low profile after he signed with the Cowboys in September. He mostly avoided interviews, even after he was able to start practicing with the team six weeks later and then played his first game in mid-November. Then, he was a newcomer trying to prove himself on a team already halfway to becoming the NFC's top-seeded playoff team even before he played a down. "I'm extremely comfortable right now. I got to know a lot of the guys a lot better and they got to know me," he said. "I definitely think I am making my way to be one of the core guys of this team. ... I feel very confident and I am very happy." It was last June when Johnson was pulled over at 3:30 one morning by police in Arizona, and the Bears waived him three days later though he was never charged in that stop. But Johnson had already been suspended by the NFL for violating probation on a gun charge, and served a two-month jail term after playing in the Super Bowl for Chicago. The Cowboys checked out Johnson, then signed him a week after starting nose tackle Jason Ferguson tore his right biceps muscle in the opener and had season-ending surgery. Johnson didn't get to play until mid-November, then had a sack in his first game. He finished with 10 tackles and two sacks in his eight games for the Cowboys. Now after playing half the regular season and the playoff loss for Dallas, plus voluntary and mandatory workouts this offseason, Johnson will have an expanded role this season. "Tank came in as an unknown certainly," coach Wade Phillips said. "Finishing the season was good. ... Just his perseverance and his hard work and working hard in the offseason, he is a leader, which we didn't know about him." The Cowboys traded Ferguson to the Miami Dolphins for draft picks this spring. And Phillips indicated this week that Jay Ratliff could play some more at defensive end, the position he was at before replacing Ferguson as an undersized nose tackle. Ratliff is a former seventh-round pick who parlayed his solid performance in the middle into a $20.5 million, five-year contract extension. Phillips said Johnson's leadership skills and playing ability will allow the Cowboys to utilize Ratliff and other players at multiple spots. "He looks good. He's playing good. He's coming along well," Ratliff said of Johnson. "The guy's improved, no doubt about it." Comfortable now with his new team, Johnson wants to be a leader in different ways. "For me to be a leader, on the field and off the field, in the weight room and just around the facility, is important," Johnson said. "I'm just trying to do my part and just stay consistent. ... I put in enough work this offseason to let them know what I am going to contribute this year in a big way." A byproduct of Johnson's presence is providing an example for Adam "Pacman" Jones, the suspended cornerback/kick returner that the Cowboys acquired in a trade from Tennessee. While Jones can practice with the Cowboys and take part in preseason games, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell might not decide until Sept. 1, six days before the Cowboys' season opener, if Jones will be fully reinstated to play in the regular season. The lockers of Jones and Johnson are separated only by one belonging to a rookie receiver. "We talk, but right now we are focused on football. We aren't worried about suspensions," Johnson said. But has Jones, who has been back on the field only two weeks, reached a comfort level yet? "He will. He will in time," Johnson said. "Nothing comes fast." Which Johnson knows from his own experience. Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press With all the neg. pub he gets thought I would post a positive about Tank. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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