If Eric Berry serves as the heart and soul of the Kansas City Chiefs, Derrick Johnson is their grit and determination.
It has been that way for the past 12 seasons, and despite what happened last Thursday, looks like it will stay that way for the remainder of this one.
Johnson suffered his second ruptured Achilles tendon in three years last week against the Oakland Raiders, and after undergoing successful surgery, is back around the team—in particular, the young linebackers.
"We're not going to let him get away free here," defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said Thursday. "His voice is well respected in this organization within the locker room, within the players. He can provide a lot of things. Once he gets settled down and gets squared away, [he can tell his teammates things like], 'These formations equal this. Hey, this is what you've got to be ready for.' Let them hear it from a different voice; see it through his eyes."
If a silver lining of Johnson not being able to play exists, it's that he now gets a taste of coaching, something he has said in the past he has future aspirations for.
"This is a great opportunity for him to see it from the other side looking this way in instead of that way out," Sutton added. "I think he'll feel like he has a little bit of an idea what this is like. He's not sitting in the coaches meetings and doing all that stuff, but I think it will just give him an opportunity to see what it's like and to see if at some point in his life it's something he would want to do – coaching players instead of playing the game.
"Obviously, he has a ton of firsthand experience, so he's going to make a really good coach. He has great personal skills. I think he would be an outstanding coach if he really wanted to do it."
In hearing from a Chiefs linebacker room, which removing Johnson now has an average age of just over 26, he is already making an impact in just a week's time.
"[He can] make the game slower," Dee Ford, who is only in his third season, said. "That's super important at this point in the year because everybody is playing their best ball right now – at least the teams that are playing for something. He can really slow the game down and dumb everything down because we install a lot philosophically and defense in the NFL is hard to play, especially when you're right in the midst of it playing inside linebacker.
"DJ has that brain where he's able to make things very easy. He's going to help them out and it's going to be great having him around. His presence will fill the room anyway. Just him knowing the position, he's been playing it since the 1950s, he knows everything."
Of course, all of the coaching talk isn't to say Johnson is close to done playing or even thinking of the "R" word—that is a decision that can only come from him.
If there is anyone who can come back from an injury such as this, it's Johnson, who has done it before and can do it again.
"I told him that I think [Terrell] Suggs in Baltimore has had [both Achilles tendons] done," Sutton said. "You can come back from these. He's a remarkable guy that way.
"He and [Mike] DeVito the first time worked unbelievably hard to get back. I'm sure that's exactly how he's picturing this one—I don't think he's even thinking, 'Hey, I can't come back from this.'"