Ted Johnson Night - December 4, 2005
Q: It's ironic today. You have three members of your draft class – you being honored, Curtis [Martin] and Ty [Law]. It's funny the different roads you've taken.
TJ: We've all taken different roads. I've probably taken the road less traveled- an unexpected path but for me very rewarding and satisfying. I played ten years longer than I thought I was going to play. But I miss it. [Tonight's] game is the kind of game I wish I were playing in, and it's pulling at the heart strings a little bit that I couldn't play today. But that's the way it goes. I have no complaints.
Q: Nice gesture by the team.
TJ: I'm certainly overwhelmed. It's so flattering- over the top really. I'll take it in, I'll enjoy it and I'll appreciate it and not let this moment pass me by. It's really special for me. It's great that they're doing this.
Q: That rookie class when you came in, Curtis [Martin] was the third round choice, Ty [Law]. Did you know that you three would have the careers that you've had?
TJ: I don't think anybody [knew], certainly Curtis with what he's been able to do at that position. Ty? No. I think a week into camp Bill [Parcells] said to him 'you're going to be the first first-rounder I've ever cut.' So I didn't know how long his career was going to be, but he's certainly proven that he's a hell of a player. I knew we were a special group. You got Dave Wohlabaugh in there. Jimmy Hitchcock. He played seven or eight years. So it was a pretty stellar group of guys.
Q: What's been the hardest adjustment for you this first year.
TJ: The buffet. Now that I'm in the media I've got the buffet again. So it's nice to have the buffets, but probably just… right now there's a bit of a lull, professionally, in what I'm doing. This TV stuff, there's nothing to this stuff. I don't know why everyone says it's so hard. I don't know why everyone's complaining. But this is definitely a fun endeavor, the TV. It gives me some time to explore some other options and see what else we want to do. But this potentially could be a career for me, we'll see. But I think you get up… you have a schedule, and everybody kind of goes off your schedule. 'Dad's not eating cereal... normally he's eating cereal at 6:30; now he's eating it at 8… is Dad gonna get up?' I screw up the whole house.
Q: Why are you surprised that you had such a long career?
TJ: I don't think I ever gave myself a lot of credit from an athletic standpoint. I always said, 'I'm not an athlete, I'm just a middle linebacker.' I was fortunate that there was still a need for my abilities and the assets that I brought. The game has changed and I just didn't see what I did and how I played the game, I didn't see the game evolving with that need as much. But I've been assured that there's still a need. I still call [Virginia Head Coach] Al Groh and other coaches around the league and there's still a need for that prototype [middle] linebacker. I'm happy for guys that are maybe not the most gifted athletically but they still have a place. They like to hit and initiate contact and like to play on the other side of the line. It's good to know that.
Q: Do you see Curtis going to the Hall of Fame? Would it surprise you if that happened?
TJ: You know what's weird, is that he'll go and Adam [Vinatieri] will go one day and these are guys that I grew up with. So it's almost like, 'My God, my friends are going to go to the Hall of Fame.' And I hope they do. I really do. It will be special because I feel like I'll be part of it. Even though I didn't play most of my career with [Curtis], we came in together and we were in the trenches with Parcells for a couple of years. So if he gets in, which I think he probably already has the numbers for, I'll feel like a part of me made it into Canton too. It will be special.
Q: Wayne Chrebet's season was ended by a concussion. What advice would you give him as he contemplates retirement?
TJ: I would tell him not to take it lightly; to go see the best neurologist he can see; find out as much as he can find out about it in regard to head trauma. There are a lot of side effects that people don't know about. There are a lot of things that can affect you as far as memory loss and depression and different side effects that you kind of take for granted. You're a football player. You're not expecting to feel that way, but it's a very serious thing and something you shouldn't take lightly. I know he was contemplating it before the season. That hit- it was pretty eerie to see him with his eyes glossed over like that.
Q: Did that really drive home your situation, knowing that people that love you have seen you like that at times?
TJ: If my family saw me like that, knowing that for the last couple of years this has been on my mind, they would have been heartbroken. It's kind of an eerie reminder of what this game can do. Wayne is not going to change his style of play. Wayne plays the way Wayne plays. I play the way I play. I'm not going to all of a sudden be a finesse football player. And that's the way Wayne played. So for us to play the level we played at --and really what got us into this league, and what kept us in this league is a physical style of play-- that's what we have to do. So your body will tell you. Your body will tell you and hopefully you have the foresight and intelligence to know when to say when.
Q: Was there talk after the 1998 season about you leaving?
TJ: There was a little bit of that. Probably more so when I was put on the expansion draft [list] after the 2001 season and we renegotiated my contract. I was certainly concerned at that point. A lot of ups and downs. More ups certainly than downs. I've learned a lot about myself. I have no regrets. I could have gone somewhere else, maybe, and been the pillar of the defense earlier. But it's okay. I learned a lot from my injuries. I learned a lot from what Bill and I went through. I learned a lot about myself. I've been on the top and I've been on the bottom too. I feel that gives me a lot of credibility when I talk to guys and look them in the eye, because I have been where everybody's been. I feel like I can relate on every single level that a player goes through.
Q: You talked about memory loss and depression. Are you suffering from any of that still?
TJ: There's still some residuals. Not too bad, trust me. My brain is pretty cleared up. Hopefully my employers think that or else they would have me on TV. I feel good. My body feels great. I don't feel like Nick Nolte getting out of bed in North Dallas Forty. That's a good thing. I have four kids now. I can bend over and play with them and know for certain that Dad will be able to play catch with them and run around with them. That's all I wanted to do. If I could ever leave the game in halfway decent shape and condition, I was going to do that. It was just my time. It was just my time.
Q: What do you think of when you look at this team this year and the way they're struggling on defense?
TJ: I think of how important it is to have the right guys. When you have new guys who don't know the system and don't each other, it's hard to gel. In football, you do not have to have the best players to win, you just have to have the best players that work together. Football, there's not another game where it's so important and vital for you to play for each other. I don't have a job unless my nose tackle is doing his job. Tedy [Bruschi] made plays to free me up and I made plays to free Tedy up. That's the way it works. There was a synergy with the group of guys we had and a cohesiveness that was pretty special. With all these new guys it takes time to develop. They're seeing that right now. Forty-three new players? Forty-three new starters? That's amazing, and they still have five games left. Subtle things. Rodney [Harrison] looking at Ty [Law]. Just a look, a glance, a quick signal, they could change positions. Just that little subtle look –-because they've been doing it for so long together-can be the difference between a big play for us or a big play against us. They just don't have guys that have worked together that long and that's part of the problem and that's a big deal.