Bryant Johnson hoping to catch on in Niners debut Print
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Thursday, 04 September 2008 16:00
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 SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) -Bryant Johnson would love to tell his San Francisco teammates exactly how to stop the Arizona Cardinals, whose uniform he wore for the past five seasons.
The 49ers' new receiver promises he would give up every nuance of the Arizona attack before the season opener - if the Cards' game plans hadn't already been pushed out of his head by the new schemes he's cramming to absorb by Sunday.
``Honestly, I don't remember the playbook any more,'' Johnson said Thursday. ``Once I've been doused into this (Mike) Martz offense, I kind of forgot the playbook from last year. There's no room in the brain for that. You just have to stay in line with what you're learning.''
Johnson changed NFC West teams as a free agent last spring for the chance to be more than a No. 3 receiver. He spent the last four years behind Pro Bowl talents Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, quietly providing an excellent tertiary target for Kurt Warner and Matt Leinart while always believing he was capable of more.
He'll get that chance against the Cardinals at Candlestick Park, although coach Mike Nolan still hasn't decided whether Johnson, who missed three weeks of the preseason with a hamstring injury, will start at split end alongside fellow newcomer Isaac Bruce.
Whatever his concerns, Nolan shouldn't worry about Johnson overextending himself with excitement.
``The thing you have to be careful about going into a situation like this is OD'ing on your emotions,'' Johnson said flatly when asked if he was excited to face his former team. ``I'm here now. I'm not there any more, and I'm taking the approach (that) they're an opponent now.''
If rookie Josh Morgan gets the starting nod after playing well in the preseason, Johnson essentially would be a No. 3 receiver again, at least for one game - but his former Cardinals teammates don't expect Johnson to take a supporting role for long.
``He was a No. 3 (receiver) here, but as we know, probably deserved to be in a higher position than that, if it wasn't for the other two guys that we've got here,'' Warner said. ``He's that kind of talent. To have that as your No. 3 receiver was just a great position as a quarterback to be in.''
Johnson had 210 catches in five seasons with Arizona, which drafted him in the first round in 2003. He missed just three games with injuries over five years, and he was high on the 49ers' wish list in free agency after catching 46 passes for 528 yards last season.
The Cardinals didn't want to break up their trio, but the club had its hands full keeping the other two pass-catchers happy. Boldin is upset with Arizona for its handling of his contract situation, while Fitzgerald eventually got a $44 million deal - and Johnson agreed to a one-year deal to prove himself in San Francisco.
``I'm happy for him, as long as he doesn't hurt us too badly,'' Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. ``I would have loved to have had him here. We were trying to do that. We were strapped a little bit because we were trying to get it worked out with Larry, and we never had a chance to address Bryant before he got the opportunity in San Francisco, but I am happy for him.''
Johnson saw San Francisco as a chance to work for offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who turned Bruce and Torry Holt into stars in St. Louis, while rejoining Jerry Sullivan, his receivers coach during his rookie season with Arizona. He also liked his chances of becoming a starter in San Francisco, though his injury might have delayed that transformation.
Johnson still speaks frequently to Boldin, who joined the Cardinals with him in the same 2003 draft, and he's in contact with Warner and Fitzgerald. He's hoping they're congratulating him on the next step in his career after Sunday's opener.
``Bryant was a great complement to our other two guys,'' Warner said. ``He was very explosive and could give us the big play and stretch the field for us. I always knew that if we had Larry and (Boldin) on one side of the football field, and I got B.J. on the other side in a one-on-one situation, I had full confidence that he would win. I just knew that if people wanted to overload the other two guys, I had extreme confidence in B.J.''
 

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