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Lions' Kerryon Johnson adds knee brace in training camp for 'peace of mind'

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Lions running back Kerryon Johnson has had a new sidekick during the first week of training camp. It’s not one of the rookie running backs, D’Andre Swift or Jason Huntley.

It’s his new knee brace, aimed at taking some of the pressure off his right knee, which has sidelined him in each of his first two seasons.

Lions' Kerryon Johnson takes the handoff from Matthew Stafford during drills.

“Oh yeah, me and the knee brace are one — like we’re one person. I work with it and it works with me. I've used it all offseason, used it all when I was coming back last season, so that's just the new me,” Johnson said Saturday via teleconference. “I'm the knee-brace guy everybody jokes about — but it feels great. I like having a knee brace on; it helps me out a lot and gives me a little peace of mind as well.”

In his first two seasons, Johnson played in just 18 of 32 games and totaled more than 1,000 yards, but as with many running backs, staying healthy through a whole season isn’t an assumption anymore.

In an offseason that’s been askew because of the COVID-19 pandemic, with no preseason games and a curtailed summer workout schedule, there might be some physical benefit for players such as Johnson, who will have less wear-and-tear before the season starts.

It’s been a different schedule, but the key will be making sure that everyone is working well together and understanding their roles.

“My main focus has been — without the OTA session, without the summer, without in-person meetings, walk-throughs and things like that — just making sure that everybody is working on the same page,” Johnson said. “It's different to my ears hearing (play calls) for two straight years in this offense than a guy who just got here in August, or a guy that was in and out last year, hearing things and different things.”

Among the running backs, Johnson already is one of the most experienced, which puts him in a role of mentoring the younger backs such as Swift and Huntley. Johnson can teach a few things about the offense and can critique the rookie’s moves, but trying to emulate them and take things away from the shifty Swift is a different story.

“Well, I can't learn anything from Swift because the way Swift's knees bend and hips work, I can't do any of that,” Johnson joked. “So when he comes up and does his little shaky-bake, whatever, I can't do that, so I just say, 'Good job. Maybe do this a little better or maybe do that but you got open.'

“It's hard to tell somebody who got open, ‘Don't get open. So, I mean he's been doing an excellent job. Huntley, just coming in from a smaller college a very spread offense just doing things our way is always a learning curve for everybody.”

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard