Running back David Johnson has been waiting nearly a year to get back out on the field. He’ll get a taste of it soon, with the Cardinals’ first preseason game on Saturday, but coach Steve Wilks has indicated that Johnson’s preseason usage will be low. While he’s eager to play, that doesn’t bother Johnson.

“I’m gonna listen to him. Even though I was hurt, I know how the NFL works,” Johnson said Monday. “I’ve played long enough to where I know the speed of NFL games. I know what I’m supposed to do.”

Johnson is happy to let other running backs get in the mix for now. He laughed off the idea of feeling left out of preseason action. At the end of the day, he wants to prove himself in the regular season.

He’s also not hesitant about his wrist, which he dislocated in last year’s season opener. Though he still wears a brace, Johnson says he doesn’t even think about it.

“It wasn’t the catching that I was worried about; it was carrying the ball. But I don’t feel anything at all,” he said. 

His injury is behind him, and he feels good about the new playbook. There has been one big adjustment that he’s still navigating: being one of the older players in the running-backs room.

“That’s definitely the biggest thing that I think I’m learning, is how to be a vet more vocally,” he said. “That’s probably the newest and most uncomfortable thing that I gotta learn how to do. … I can’t believe it, man. Year 4 I’m going into, I felt like I was just coming in a rookie in a whirlwind.”

He’s able to give technical advice, breaking down plays and schemes. But the lessons don’t stop there, and it’s not only running backs who are asking.

Johnson is doling out off-field advice too, like where to live or how to fix up a house. There’s no one better on the team for that than Johnson, who worked odd jobs during summers in college and, even now potentially on the brink of a new contract, prefers to do the work himself.

“I just had to fix my dang toilet the other day. The flush valve wasn’t working,” he said, laughing.


Katherine Fitzgerald and Bob McManaman discuss Tuesday’s Cardinals training camp practice.
Rob Schumacher, azcentral sports

A chance to recover

Defensive tackles Robert Nkemdiche and Olsen Pierre each had a day off on Tuesday after some lingering soreness from Monday, according to Wilks.

“We’ve been going at it pretty good with pads,” Wilks said. “So I didn’t really want to push those. I wanted to get a little bit of recovery, get those guys ready to go for this weekend.”

Still, Wilks noted that he’s been impressed with Nkemdiche this camp, particularly his consistency.

“I think he’s having a great camp,” he said. “I’m not gonna get ahead of myself — you have to go out there and prove it in a game — but I’m looking for some great things out of him this year.”

Wide receiver Chad Williams had some slight tendinitis in the knee, but Wilks said that they talked throughout practice and Williams was “feeling fine.” 

On top of that, cornerback Jonathan Moxey and linebacker Airius Moore started the day on stationary bikes off to the side of practice. For the time that practice was open to the media, they did not join in.

“They’re still dealing with those nagging injuries, with the hamstrings and those things,” Wilks said. “So they’re out there with the trainers trying to do a little bit of rehab.”

Wide receivers pushing each other

While Wilks had fielded the most questions about the wide receivers, the players themselves can clearly see how tight the competition is.

“It’s tough, I’m not gonna lie,” J.J. Nelson said. “But it’s great. It brings out the best of out everybody. We all (are) rooting for each other.”

Nelson is entering his fourth year in the league, all with the Cardinals. There are only three wide receivers on the team with more experience than him. Having been through camp before, he’s trying not to focus on the decision that the staff will ultimately make.

“They can keep who they wanna keep, who they feel can help this team,” he said. “So we just gotta go out and compete every day and stay consistent, and we’ll see what happens.”

The Cardinals have 12 wide receivers on the roster right now. Larry Fitzgerald’s spot is certainly secure. An official depth chart released Monday had Fitzgerald followed by Brice Butler, Chad Williams, Nelson and Christian Kirk, in that order.

Rookies like Kirk are trying to use each drill to leave an impression.

“Just every day, going out there and taking advantage of the opportunities and the reps that I’m getting,” Kirk said. “We know that’s the spot that needs to be filled. But we’re all supportive of one another. We just push each other, go out there and make plays.”

The preseason slate will give players a chance to make those plays and further separate themselves. Nelson is looking forward to the games for an additional reason. 

“It’s always good to go against other competition,” he said. “I kind of get tired of going against the same people every day. They pick up on your routes, your tendencies and stuff like that. So going against other people, it’s always fun.”