Johnson transformed his body, could alter look of Patriots defensive front


Johnson transformed his body, could alter look of Patriots defensive front

FOXBORO -- When Anthony Johnson visited the Patriots for a workout as a free agent, Bill Belichick gave him the once-over and was taken aback by what he saw. He remembered Johnson as a reserve defensive lineman who played in seven games with the Dolphins as a rookie in 2014. That player tipped the scales at 325 pounds.

The player standing in front of him ready to work out was about 50 pounds lighter.

"Honestly, I didn’t even recognize him when we brought him in for a workout," Belichick said. "I looked at him and said, 'Do we have the right guy here?' "

They did, and they signed Johnson -- who was out of football for most of the 2015 season -- in May. The move proved precient as Johnson is now making his case for a roster spot after an explosive performance in Thursday night's preseason game. 

Johnson missed last week's matchup with the Saints because of an injury. Getting an opportunity to rush from the interior against the Bears, he swatted down a Jay Cutler pass during the game-opening drive. In the second quarter, he split a sack with Trey Flowers, stuffed running back Jaquizz Rodgers for a three-yard loss, and recorded a pressure on third down to help force a punt. In the fourth quarter, Johnson showed up again, this time as a member of the Patriots' goal-line package on fourth down, pushing the pocket to help force another incompletion and a turnover on downs. 

After the game, Johnson, who said he now checks in at 280 pounds (though he's listed at 295), explained that he feels as comfortable with his weight as he has in a long time. Whereas the Dolphins asked him to add almost 20 pounds to a frame that measured in at 308  when he showed up at the NFL Scouting Combine after his junior season at LSU, Johnson's body is now closer to where it was when he played at 290 pounds as a highly-regarded recruit for the Tigers.

He says it's the lightest he's been since he was a 260-pound middle-school quarterback -- "That's a fact. Hashtag fact," he said -- and it's helped give him the quickness he needs to break into opposing backfields. 

"I like to categorize myself as a silver-back gorilla," he said. "Just go out there and be ferocious and just play."

It wasn't easy for Johnson to shed all that weight, he explained. He had to sweat -- a lot -- and he quit some of his favorite foods, particularly the ones that reminded him of where he grew up in Louisiana. Jambalaya, jumbo shrimp, and his mom’s baked macaroni all had to go.

"He’s kind of gone in the other direction from being a big guy and really trimming down and his skills are different," Belichick said. "He’s faster. He’s quicker. He’s obviously lighter. Doesn’t have as much power, but he was an interesting guy. He was a good player coming out of college, an interesting workout, and a guy that’s a lot different than most of our other interior defensive lineman, so we thought in signing him that his skills might complement some of the other players that we have,. We’ll just see how that plays out."

The Patriots have gone heavy with their interior defensive linemen lately, drafting Malcom Brown (320 pounds) in the first round last year, taking Vincent Valentine (320) in the third round this year, and signing Terrance Knighton (355) and Markus Kuhn (315) this offseason to go along with veteran Alan Branch (350).

In fact, the Patriots player who most closely resembles Johnson's body type (6-foot-2, 280 pounds) is one who's no longer with the team: 2014 first-round pick Dominique Easley (6-2, 285), who was released in April and has since signed with the Rams.

Cut by the Dolphins at the end of last year's training camp and out of football until the Redskins signed him to their practice squad in November, Johnson, who went undrafted the same year the Patriots selected Easley, came into the league with few expectations. When he agreed to a deal with the Patriots, the expectations were non-existent.

But against the Bears on Thursday, he played well enough to earn some consideration for a roster spot.

Former Patriots RB Danny Woodhead announces retirement

Former Patriots RB Danny Woodhead announces retirement

Former Patriots running back Danny Woodhead has announced his retirement after 10 years in the NFL.

The 33-year-old took to Instagram to make it official.

10 years! Wow, God had crazy plans for a small little kid from North Platte, NE! It’s been a wild ride and feel so blessed He allowed me to do what I loved for so long. But now it’s time to say goodbye to the game I love. First, I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Without Him my career wouldn’t have been possible. He blessed me with the gifts and He paved the way. All I had to do was follow His plans for my life, and His plans were crazy awesome! Next, I want to thank my wife who has been by my side since freshman year of high school. She has been a rock through all the ups and downs. Sis, Willy, Mae Mae, and Hopie your daddy is going to be home a ton more and I can’t wait! Thanks to my Dad and Mom for always supporting me and showing me that God is first, then everything else will fall into place. Ben, Joel, and Anna thanks for preparing me for the NFL in our backyard games growing up. The dreaded in-laws Steve and Suzie for always being there for me. Chris Gittings (agent) you’re the best and thankful your my brother/uncle! Thank you Jets, Patriots, Chargers, and Ravens! Thanks to all my head coaches (Bob Zohner, Brad Smith, Bill O’Boyle, Eric Mangini, Rex Ryan, Bill Belichick, Mike McCoy, and John Harbaugh) who believed in me! To my rbs coaches (coach skiles, coach reiners, Jimmy Raye, A Lynn, Ivan, Ollie, Ridge, and Thomas) thanks for putting up with me. Thanks to all my teammates from high school till now. Without you guys I never would’ve become who I was as a player. To all my olinemen, you guys deserve the credit for anything that I received credit for. I thank you for helping make my career. To all the trainers, team docs, strength coaches, chiropractors, massage therapists, physical therapists, body gurus thanks for making sure I was on the field. To all the people who made my life easier at the facility (ops, pr, equipment staff, cafe workers, custodians) thanks and your work doesn’t go unnoticed. And how could i forget all my fans?! You’re the best and have always felt the love and support! I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few but know that I’m thankful for everything everyone has done on my journey.

A post shared by Danny Woodhead (@teamwoody39) on

Thursday, it was reported the Patriots reached out to Woodhead for a possible reunion. 

The last two seasons have been challenging for him, as he dealt with season-ending injuries in both 2016 with the Chargers and 2017 with the Ravens.

Woodhead finishes his career with 2,238 yards rushing, 2,698 yards receiving, 15 rushing touchdowns and 17 receiving touchdowns.


NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: C's win despite injuries, Pats make additions

NBC Sports Boston Photo

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: C's win despite injuries, Pats make additions

1:20 - Despite throwing a depleted roster out there, the Celtics were able to get back in the win column vs. the Magic. Michael Holley and Tommy Heinsohn break down the win.

6:17 - Finally, the Patriots have done something! On Friday night it was reported that New England signed defensive end Adrian Clayborn as well as running back Jeremy Hill. Tom Curran, Alex Giaimo and Ben Volin discuss the impact these additions will have on the team.

11:05 - While the Celtics were able to pull out the win on Friday, the team did announce that Marcus Smart is expected to miss six to eight weeks after undergoing thumb surgery. A. Sherrod Blakely expresses his optimism on Smart’s return for the playoffs.