Tank Johnson back on practice field with Cowboys Print
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Friday, 19 October 2007 11:50
NFL Headline News

 IRVING, Texas (AP) -Suspended defensive tackle Tank Johnson practiced with the Dallas Cowboys for the first time Friday, disappointed commissioner Roger Goodell didn't shorten his eight-game ban but glad to be back on the field.
Johnson was signed by Dallas after getting cut by the Chicago Bears and can't play in a game until Nov. 11 against the New York Giants. He said he'd hoped Goodell would agree to shorten his suspension for violating probation on a gun charge to six games, but will settle for the three weeks of practice he was granted.
``Me and Roger, we're good friends, man,'' Johnson said after the workout. ``We talk a lot. It's actually very nice of him to allow me to practice because as far as the career goes, it's kind of important to get going first before you get out there full speed.''
He was far from that Friday. After some stretching exercises, Johnson mostly watched during individual drills for the short time practice was open to the media.
The practices will serve as Johnson's personal training camp because he was unemployed for the real thing. He was already suspended by the NFL when he was pulled over for speeding in June, and the Bears released him. The Cowboys signed him last month.
``We've got a program for him to start getting ready, but we've got to get ready for this ball game,'' Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said before the final practice leading to Sunday's game against Minnesota.
Johnson started 10 games for Chicago last season and played in the Super Bowl loss to Indianapolis, but his problems started before the playoffs.
In December, police raided his suburban Chicago home and found six unregistered firearms, a violation of his probation on a charge stemming from a 2005 gun-related arrest.
Two days after the raid, Johnson's bodyguard was shot and killed in an early-morning fight while he and Johnson were at a Chicago nightclub. Johnson was suspended by the Bears for one game for being at the club. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor weapons charge stemming from the raid and spent two months in jail.
The traffic stop came about a month after his release, and he was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving. He was never charged, and tests showed he wasn't legally drunk.
``I learned a lot,'' Johnson said. ``The maturation process is such an ongoing process. You learn every day. I had a lot of different things thrown at me.''
Now, one of those things is Phillips' 3-4 defense. Although he's never played the 3-4, Johnson said Phillips shares an attacking philosophy with his former coach, Chicago's Lovie Smith. That means interior defensive linemen are coached to get as far into the backfield as possible on most plays.
``I just want to get a good feel for being on the field,'' Johnson said. ``When you're coming out to get back into the game after not playing since the Super Bowl, you want to knock the rust off, get acclimated to the temperature, to the speed of the game, just get back in a groove.''
Johnson said the toughest part of the suspension was the preseason because of ``all the buildup to the season.'' Since signing with the Cowboys, his TiVo has been getting as much of a workout as he has.
``The good thing is I have cable,'' he said. ``It's great to see the guys on TV. But more importantly, I get to study the game. I don't know the call, but I can see what the defense is trying to accomplish.''
The Cowboys have their bye next week, which would seem like the perfect chance to get Johnson up to speed. But Phillips said a shorter three-day week actually works against them.
Johnson doesn't seem worried.
``As soon as I get on the field,'' he said, ``I'll be ready.''
 

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