Charles Johnson had been an NFL player. That wasn’t the same as enjoying football.
To get back to that point, it took a stint in the minors, which opened his eyes to the things he enjoyed about the game.
The former Vikings wide receiver was out of football after being cut by the Jets in the preseason last year, but had a solid stint in Orlando in the AAF, and came back to the Eagles refreshed.
“I played freely, [there were] no politics involved,” Johnson said, via Mike Kaye of NJ.com. “The best players were going to play . . . it was all about the love of the game.”
After spending time on the Packers’ and Browns’ practice squads as a rookie, Johnson was solid but not spectacular for the Vikings in 2014, with 31 catches for 475 yards and two touchdowns. That was as good as it got, however, as he struggled with injuries and inconsistency, and bounced through stints with the Panthers and Jets before trying to re-establish himself in the AAF.
Johnson caught 45 passes for 687 yards and five touchdowns for the vaunted Apollos, under coach Steve Spurrier. And Johnson said he was energized by Spurrier approach, and his insistence that experienced players had to earn playing time every week in practice.
“On film, I see myself smiling,” Johnson said. “The AAF was really fun. I really miss it. I miss the guys that I played around and I miss all of the atmosphere. It was great, I thought it was going to be a really good league. Unfortunately, it folded but that’s how it is. . . .
“I kind of lost that love at one point in my career in the NFL. And I found it again, so I’m just trying to enjoy it, I’m trying to be happy with everything and not worry about too much.”
He’s now competing for a job in a deep receiving group with the Eagles, signing after the Eagles traded for DeSean Jackson, and before they spent a second-round pick on J.J. Arcega-Whiteside to go along with Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor.
But he’s used to competing again, and enjoying his work.