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Johnson is finally at home with Redskins
Johnson says that when he looks back over some of his past actions, it's like staring at someone else. "It's a different guy," he says. "At that time, you're frustrated because things weren't working out. We switched offensive coordinators, you feel yourself failing, you go out more than you need to, you drink more than you need to, things go down from there and you feel helpless. Being in this situation now, I have my head on more straight."
He knows what the negative headlines have done to his reputation. But when he signed mid-season with Cincinnati last year and entered free agency this spring, all he wanted was a fresh start. Washington knew him before his fame and misfortune. He wanted that back.
"These days, as long as it's on the Internet, it'll always be there. It'll never die down," he says. "I'm fine with that. All I can do is live right one day at a time."
Back where he started
On March 11, Johnson visited Redskins Park as a free agent. He spoke with running backs coach Bobby Turner into the night and called his father when he finally got back to the hotel room.
"How'd it go?" Johnson Sr. recalls asking his son. "How'd you feel?"
"Dad, it feels like home," Johnson responded. "Everything about it feels like home for me."
He signed a three-year contract two days later.
Now he's back where he started. Where he and his family would debate Jay Schroeder's value as a quarterback at the dinner table. Where he'd emulate Jim Brown's swagger back to the huddle in the back yard. Where he first fell in love with football.
He is a new father with new responsibilities, a new team and a new sense of purpose. He began his life a Redskins fan and says he intends to end his career a Redskins player.
"Sometimes you call it fate. Sometimes it's out of your hands. I believe things happen for a reason," says Johnson Sr. "I really believe that.
"He's at a stage in his life when maturity kicks in and you realize, 'Hey, what do I have left? It's time to really make this thing work.' "