Allen Park — For five weeks, Detroit Lions rookie running back Kerryon Johnson was in limbo, too hurt to play, not hurt enough for injured reserve. But the day after being eliminated from postseason contention, the Lions opted for the conservative approach and shut him down, officially ending his season.
On Monday, the day after the Lions season concluded, Johnson acknowledged his injured knee is in good shape, and if the team had made an unlikely late-season run, he probably could have been available to play this weekend.
"I’m very close," Johnson said. "I wish we would have made the playoffs. It is what it is."
The Lions didn't come close, losing four of the next five after Johnson went down, finishing with a 6-10 record.
Prior to the Nov. 18 injury, Johnson had been playing well, trending toward his third 100-yard game and a 1,000-yard season. He finished his debut campaign with 641 yards on 118 carries (5.4 YPC), while chipping in another 213 yards on 32 receptions.
"(The experience) was invaluable," he said. "It’s one thing to think about going to the NFL, it’s one thing to think about playing against (Carolina's) Luke Kuechly, (Seattle's) Bobby Wagner, all these guys, and then going out there and doing it. To see the mindset they approach the game with, they play the game with, it inspires you."
Durability was a concern for Johnson coming out of Auburn. He battled a number of ailments during his college career and the school handed the ball to him 285 times in 2017.
Johnson is already eyeing playing a full season in 2019.
“Running back is a tough spot, but when you’re able to finish 17 (weeks), give it your all for 17 (weeks), I feel like that puts your team in the best position to win," Johnson said. "That’s what I like to do. I like to win and I like to be accountable. One way you do that is by finishing.
“I’ve just got to train harder," he said. "Obviously, what I did this past offseason wasn’t enough, so I’ve got to do more. I have more time to do more without having to prepare for the combine and all that stuff."