Slimmer Johnson excels at Chiefs training camp

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Chiefs vs Chargers 2013

Nico Johnson worked hard during the offseason to lose a little weight for the season. | Kansas City Chiefs

Like he did when Dont’a Hightower went down for an injury at Alabama, Andalusia native Nico Johnson stepped in and took first-team reps at Kansas City’s training camp on Saturday at West Missouri State.

Fellow Chiefs linebacker Joe Mays left camp with a sore knee, according to reports, and Johnson quickly took over, drawing praise from Kansas City coach Andy Reid, who noticed that the former AHS standout looked great.

“He came back in phenomenal shape, and you’re looking at a big, strong linebacker,” Reid said in an article. “Right now, he’s better against the run than against the pass, but he’s working like crazy on the pass. You can see the strides that he’s made over the last year. It’s a good thing.”

In fact, Johnson worked pretty hard during the offseason to drop his weight down 10 pounds to where he is now 240-241 pounds.

“From talking to position coaches and everybody else, one thing they wanted me to do was lose weight and just try to play faster,” Johnson said to the Kansas City Star. “Now I’m 240, 241 pounds, and I feel lighter, I feel faster and combined with knowing the defense now, it’s just so much easier.”

On one of his reps Saturday, Johnson lined up with Jamaal Charles, who ran a wheel rout down the sideline.

Johnson told The Wichita Eagle that he was trying to stay with Charles on the play.

“I was pretty much trying to stay with him, and when I saw his eyes get bigger, I knew I had to get in his face,” he said. “He ended up not catching the ball.”

In a pass-dominant NFL, Johnson said he knows he needs to improve in that area and to stay focused on the present.

“The competition (at inside linebacker) is high,” Johnson said. “I was thinking over the summer that my game has to be at its best right now. I wasn’t thinking about my career, just this moment, this time. I’ve got to do my best. That’s what I’ve got to do.”

Information from The Wichita Eagle and was used in this report.