Safety hopes to come in from the cold, play in the secondary

Thursday, June 7, 2012 at 10:42pm

Robert Johnson has spent much of the last two years on ice — literally and figuratively.

There is a certain symmetry, therefore, in the fact that he spent time this offseason training alongside two winter sports superstars, short track speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno and snowboarder Louie Vito.

“We all worked out together,” the Tennessee Titans safety said. “Apolo used to be out there in Utah. I went to the University of Utah and through word of mouth we sort of met each other.

“I wound up hooking up with his trainer and everything’s been going good.”

That trainer, John Schaeffer, runs Winning Factor, a multi-faceted health and fitness training system that includes a high-end workout facility in Pennsylvania. It was there that Johnson spent time with the Winter Olympic athletes and Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Stevenson Sylvester, a former teammate at the University of Utah.

“The whole Winning Factor has different sets for the sports,” Johnson said. “Me and Stevenson Sylvester, we were working out on the football part. … It was great.”

Two years after the Titans used a fifth-round pick to get him, health and fitness are of primary concern to Johnson.

There is no telling how many bags of ice he has used during his professional career thus far. Injuries combined with inexperience to limit him to just three games played in two seasons. He spent the majority of the 2011 campaign on the practice squad after having been inactive for each of the 16 games in his rookie season.

“He’s had injuries in the past that have hurt his development,” coach Mike Munchak said. “He’s a good-looking kid, he covers a lot of ground, and he’s big. He should be able to make plays for us.

“The key for him is to stay on the field and get reps because both years he’s been held back with injuries.”

That’s about all that is standing in his way at the moment.

Safety is one of the least deep positions on the current Titans roster after long-time starter Chris Hope and 2011 free agent acquisition Anthony Smith were not offered contracts for this season.

After projected starters Michael Griffin and Jordan Babineaux, he is next on the list for 2012.

“We lost a lot of good experience last year,” defensive coordinator Jerry Gray said. “The thing [Johnson] has to do is his learning curve has to be way up. He has to be like a rookie and be in meetings, always looking at film.

“… If we put [him] out there, we can’t have inexperience on the football field this year.”

The last thing he wants, of course, is for coaches to give him the cold shoulder when an opportunity to get on the field arises.

“If I’m going to get out there I’m going to have to know where I’m supposed to be and know what’s going on,” Johnson said. “… Learning the small details of the game — that’s what I’m trying to learn.

“I feel it is my time. I just have to go out there and prove it.”


• Offensive coordinator Chris Palmer said Thursday that first-round draft pick Kendall Wright showed enough knowledge at one of the wide receiver positions through the first week of organized team activities (OTAs) that he has been introduced to other spots this week.

“At some point he’ll get overloaded, which is typical for a lot of players,” Palmer said. “… We’re going to have flexibility for all of our receivers to play different spots.”

Wright remains the only member of the Titans’ 2012 draft class who has not signed his contract.

• Speaking of wide receivers, Kenny Britt is back to running after a recent arthroscopic procedure on his reconstructed knee.

“I’m sure he’ll feel he’s back to where he was as far as what he’s doing on the field and then it’ll just be a matter of how quickly his knee responds to cutting, running routes and doing those things over the next month,” Munchak said. “There’s nothing to say it wouldn’t go well, and so we’re assuming the positive end of that.”