Losing Chris Johnson is tough, but Cardinals have to move on

Photo: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

BY: ED COLE

TEMPE, Ariz. – The entire Cardinals team is still in shock, and they’re hurting right now, after running back Chris Johnson was placed on the injured reserve/designated for return list on Tuesday, after he injured his left knee against the 49ers this past Sunday.

“He (Johnson) was as devastated as I was,” head coach Bruce Arians said. “First, it felt like it was a bruise and he was convinced that it was a bruise, and it was going to be one week because he’s tough. Then we got the MRI, and there was a crack in it. He’s pissed. I’m pissed. But that’s football. We have to move on.”

As tough as it is to move on, Arians and his guys have to. There’s really no time to sit and feel sorry for each other, because there’s another game coming up with the St. Louis Rams this Sunday.

Yet in still, Johnson and his production will be missed big time.

“Obviously, tough,” quarterback Carson Palmer said. “He’s (Johnson) been so tough and he’s just been so available in his whole career and played in so many games, that when he didn’t come back in, you knew it wasn’t great news. But, we might get him back. Hopefully, we’re in a position to get him back and I know he hopes the same thing.”

It’ll be difficult to have to work without Johnson, who was the fourth-leading rusher in the NFL before he was taken away, but Arians says things won’t change a whole lot with the team’s scheme for the Rams from a running perspective.

“It really doesn’t change it at all. We’re not going to change what we do at all,” Arians said. “David (Johnson) will just step up. When Andre (Ellington) was out, David was playing a lot more early in the year. He played extremely well; played well in this game, other than the fumbled kickoff. But, he had a big touchdown catch and ran well in this game. We have all the confidence in the world in Stepfan (Taylor) and Kerwynn (Williams). Kerwynn played extremely well in December last year and has practiced well all year. So, that part of it doesn’t worry me at all.”

“Chris (Johnson) has been such a great running back for as long as I can remember. So definitely, we’re a different team. There’s no doubt,” Palmer said. “He was so great in pass protection. Obviously, he had those plays where he just bounced off guys and ripped off runs. He runs through arm tackles. He reads blocks really well. All those things that Chris has, you don’t replace. Again, you go from a Chris-sized back to a David-sized back, it’s a totally different guy you have to tackle and a different aiming point for the defense because of the speed and the elusiveness. Definitely, things are changing, but our goals are the same. We expect to win, no matter who we play. I don’t think anything’s changed really for us.”

David Johnson says he spoke with Chris Johnson recently, and he’s understandably bummed out about the injury. If Ellington misses any game time with his foot injury, those are two major pieces that will be hard to replace.

“Oh man, we lose a lot,” Johnson said. “Chris (Johnson) is a great runner, and Andre (Ellington), his ability to catch out of the backfield and be a runner at the same time. We’re missing a lot, but hopefully, I can fill those shoes.”

Johnson’s had to take on a lot in his rookie season. Earlier in the season, when Ellington injured his knee, Johnson’s workload increased, and he heeded the call quite well.

Johnson believes those early season reps helped him tremendously, and they have him ready for this next challenge that’s ahead of him.

“That’s helped me a lot,” Johnson said. “I don’t get too nervous during the games anymore. It’s just like practice; coming out, doing what I can, trying to calm down, and just let the game come to me.”