Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Johnson: Linebacker Will Play 140th Game Thursday

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Johnson: Linebacker Will Play 140th Game Thursday

Article excerpt

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- His first tackle came on Sept. 11, 2005, when he stopped New York Jets running back Curtis Martin for a 1-yard gain.

If all goes well, tackle No. 1,000 will come Thursday night at Arrowhead Stadium where the Chiefs are hosting the Denver Broncos.

Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson is on the threshold of becoming the leading tackler in Chiefs history, or at least since they started tracking statistics for tackling in 1977. Johnson sits with 993 career tackles, seven shy of 1,000 and the spot ahead of former Chiefs and Kansas State linebacker Gary Spani (1978-86).

Johnson was prepared last year to reach the 1,000 mark and team record, but the ruptured Achilles tendon he suffered in the 2014 opener ended his season and put pursuit of the record on hold.

"I thought about it last year a lot," Johnson said. "My main focus now is helping the team win and that record will get broken while I'm doing that."

After missing 15 games last season, Johnson was back in his familiar spot at inside linebacker in the season opener at Houston. He finished the 27-20 victory against the Texans with eight tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss and a pass deflection.

"I was kind of like a high school kid, just jumping gaps here and there; I wasn't reading like I should," Johnson said of his comeback performance. "But as I settled down throughout the game, I played a lot better. This game hopefully I can start faster than I did when I started last week. This is the home opener so this is going to be big."

It's been nearly 30 years since Spani set the team standard during his 124-game NFL career playing on the inside for the Chiefs, whether it was a 3-4 or 4-3 alignment.

"It's a mark of professionalism and consistency," said Spani, who works in the team's front office handling special events. "Linebackers, that's what we are supposed to do -- make tackles. He's just been consistent and it's been fun to watch him grow."

Coach Andy Reid said Johnson has been one of the most consistent players week to week that he's been around in his 24-year NFL coaching career with Green Bay, Philadelphia and Kansas City. …

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