With Justin Blalock and Harvey Dahl set to become free agents in 2011, the Atlanta Falcons knew they would soon have possible holes to fill on the offensive line. With their third-round pick in this year’s NFL draft, the Falcons selected Alabama’s Mike Johnson, a solid player that NFL.com states “knows how to get the job done.” By drafting the 6-foot-5, 312-pounder, Atlanta hopes to begin grooming a productive starter at the guard position.
Times sports reporter James Wolfe caught up with Johnson after the last day of Organized Team Activities to speak about how well Johnson thinks he’s doing at the NFL level, how it felt to win a national championship at Alabama, and who is going to win the World Series.
Question: So how well do you think you did today in your last OTA?
Answer: Pretty good. You know, I think I’m starting to learn a little more about what I need to do to be a part of this team. I think I’m coming along pretty good.
Q: Are you getting close to figuring out the offensive scheme?
A: I’m getting there. A lot of stuff is just carried over from college, so as far as that goes, I’m getting stuff down. It’s going to take a while before I am really comfortable, you know, before I can just know what to do with any given situation, but I’m learning as fast as I can.
Q: You played in the Southeastern Conference in college, which is considered one of the most competitive in the country. How close is that type of competition to the professional level?
A: There are a lot of things that are similar, especially the way in which the fans and coaches are so passionate, but this is the NFL, so you have to learn a whole new mentality at this level from a player standpoint.
Q: Does playing in the Georgia climate remind you of playing at Alabama?
A: It’s pretty similar, if not hotter in Alabama. It’s usually pretty warm in the summer over there so I’m not really feeling the heat at all.
Q: Do you think that has helped you in OTAs?
A: Definitely. I don’t even notice that it’s hot now because I expected it to be hot every time I stepped on the field in college. Especially during summer practice. It feels a little bit like being back there.
Q: How did it feel to hoist that national championship trophy last year?
A: Incredible. It was the highlight of my football career.
Q: Even better than getting drafted?
A: Wow. I don’t know. That’s a tough one. Not sure I could pick between the two, now that I think about it.
Q: What do you think of the Crimson Tide’s chances to repeat?
A: I think they can. I have a lot of good friends back on the team and I know they’ve got a good squad coming in and they’re going to work hard. They’ve got every opportunity in the world, so hopefully they can come through at the right time like we did last year.
Q: You played baseball in high school, how often do you follow the game?
A: A lot. Every chance I get.
Q: Who is your favorite team?
A: The Chicago Cubs.
Q: Ouch. That must be rough.
A: Yeah it’s tough. Tough going.
Q: Who do you think is the favorite to win the World Series at this point?
A: You know I don’t really know. A couple of teams have come on strong but you never can tell. Now the American League East, any team in that league could pull through. You gotta wait till the second half and see who gets hot.
Q: Are you going to try and make it out to a Braves game?
A: Hopefully. I know its a good time. I came to see the Cubs last summer or two summers ago, I can’t remember. I know that Soriano hit three home runs and it was a good deal, so hopefully I can make it back over there.
Q: Have you had a chance to check out the city of Atlanta yet?
A: A little bit, not much. We’ve been so busy, and I’ve just been trying to rest on the weekends. Hopefully, here in July I can get better acquainted with my surroundings.
Q: You haven’t signed a contract yet, how are things going on that front?
A: Hopefully going well. I’m just letting my agent handle things and I know he’ll do whatever is best for me.
Q: How does it feel to be done with your first series of professional practices?
A: Pretty good. It’s just one of those things where you have to keep working, it never really stops. You gotta work through it and come into fall camp ready.