The way last season ended for Arizona Cardinals running back Chris Johnson was "devastating" for him. He never before had missed a game to injury, then had a chip fracture than send him to injured reserve. At the time he was having a fine season, in the top five in rushing. Then, when he was put on injured reserve, but designated for return, the only way he was going to play again, it was if the Cardinals made the Super Bowl.
They came up a game short, so Johnson didn't play again.
He ended up coming back to the Cardinals, despite a couple of offers from others.
He talked about the experience on the Bickley and Marotta Show on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM and about how things are looking up for 2016.
The first thing to note is how he has an entire offseason with the team. He didn't sign last year until training camp had already started and then pulled a hamstring. Between recovering from getting shot and then losing time to the hamstring, he was not in football shape to start the season and then, when Andre Ellington got hurt in Week 1, he was starting with "heavy legs." He said he didn't feel completely in football shape until about the time he got hurt in San Francisco.
But now he is doing well and ready to go.
"I feel this year is totally different," he said. "I feel better, moving quicker, I feel much faster than I felt last year, so I think people are going to see a quicker and faster Chris Johnson than they did last year."
That, plus the running backs they have in their room give him high expectations.
"We just feel we can be the best backfield in the league if we can just continue to work hard and got there everyday and get better and better," he said.
He cited how big a jump the running game made from 2014 to 2015. In 2014, they were the second-worst rushing attack in the league. Adding Chris and David Johnson to the mix in 2015, they jumped all the way to eighth overall, rushing for nearly 2000 yards as a team. And all that was with "a guy who didn't have an offseason, then David (Johnson) he was a rookie and Andre (Ellington) battling injury all year.
"Being healthy and working hard every day, I don't see why we can't be number one in the league in rushing."
With Bruce Arians calling the shots on offense and with receivers like Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and John Brown, it seems like it would be hard to be the best in rushing, despite the talent. But last year they were second in the league in passing and eighth in rushing. They certainly have a shot if they can be as productive offensively as they were last season.
Chris Johnson figures to play a big part in that if he stays healthy.