Former Rison Wildcat Tyrell Johnson heads into training camp as a Miami Dolphin after spending his first four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. (Special to The Commercial/Bo Rogers)
For Tyrell Johnson, the upcoming NFL season is a new start.
After spending the first four years of his career with the Minnesota Vikings, Rison native Johnson signed a one-year, $765,000 deal with the Miami Dolphins in April.
Minnesota and Miami are two completely different franchises, and Johnson is looking forward to playing for a new organization.
“It’s two different schemes and it is what fits you better,” said Johnson in an interview with the Pine Bluff Commercial last week. “It’ s a new chapter in my life and I am going to Miami and do the best I can to make it work there.”
Johnson was drafted in the second round, 43rd overall, in the 2008 NFL Draft by the Vikings after his standout career with Arkansas State. Johnson played all four years at Arkansas State and finished his career with 269 tackles and 12 interceptions, including six interceptions his senior year. He had 112 tackles his sophomore year and 94 his senior year.
In his rookie year, Johnson played in all 16 games and started seven. He made 20 tackles and had one interception.
Johnson took over as Minnesota’s starting strong safety in 2009 and started all 15 games he played in. He had 45 tackles and one interception.
In 2010, injuries limited Johnson to seven games and he played in 11 games this past season with the Vikings. Now Johnson is looking at a fresh start with Miami.
“When you go to another team, you have to prove yourself again,” he said. “I am trying to earn the respect.”
Minnesota had a spot open for a starting strong safety and starting free safety and did offer Johnson a deal in the offseason. But Johnson chose to sign with Miami.
“They offered me and wanted me to come back,” he said. “I just felt it was time to get a new start.”
Miami also has a starting safety spot open. Strong safety Yeremiah Bell made 107 tackles for the Dolphins last year, but the nine-year veteran is now a member of the division-rival New York Jets.
Reshad Jones, who has spent three years in the NFL, had 67 tackles for Miami at the free safety spot last year. Miami gave up 250 passing yards a game last year, which ranked 25th in the NFL.
Johnson is expected to compete with Tyrone Culver and Chris Clemons for the starting strong safety spot.
Johnson said he is looking forward to the opportunity to compete for the starting spot.
“I know for a 100 percent fact that I can go in and help (Miami),” he said. “I am just looking for the opportunity and make the most out of it.”
Johnson’s position battle could also be put in the national spotlight. The Dolphins will be the focus on HBO’s annual show “Hard Knocks,” which will follow the team throughout training camp.
The main position battle will be at quarterback for Miami. Last year’s starter Matt Moore will battle with free agent pickup David Garrard and Miami’s first-round pick Ryan Tannehill.
Johnson is hoping to have an impact on that position battle, too.
“I am looking to make their job super difficult,” he said. “I want them to come to me and say I was the reason they lost the job because I had six interceptions against them.”
Miami’s training camp starts on Thursday.