NFL dreams in limbo

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:01 AM ET

Any day now, Tom Johnson is going to wake up and start living the dream again.

Until the moment the NFL lockout ends, the former Calgary Stampeders defensive tackle will try to stay patient and keep training hard, waiting for the phone to ring.

“This is killing me,” said Johnson, who’s in Calgary participating in the Henry Burris All-Star Weekend.

“I’ve been anticipating this moment for a long time. The goal was to make it to an NFL team.

“Now I have to wait extra long to get in there and mingle with the players and look into the playbook.

“I have to be more mentally strong and keep pushing myself by myself. It’s one of those things that, hopefully, gets resolved soon.”

When Johnson signed a three-year contract with the New Orleans Saints in January, he knew there was a chance the NFL would have a labour stoppage.

It was a chance he and seven other CFLers took.

By no means does the 26-year-old regret the move.

He spent two seasons with the Stamps hoping to earn another shot down south after getting released by the Indianapolis Colts in 2008.

Former B.C. Lions receiver Mannie Arceneaux feels the same way, and he doesn’t have any hard feelings about the situation, despite the wait.

He wore a Minnesota Vikings shirt while hanging out at the Burris golf tournament Friday to show pride in his new colours.

NFL off-seasons aren’t usually this quiet for players.

Both Johnson and Arceneaux aren’t communicating with coaches and haven’t participated in any mini-camps, where they could get prepared for main training camp.

When — or perhaps if — this season kicks off, newcomers such as Johnson and Arceneaux will need to hit the ground running.

“It might be a CFL-style training camp, where all the players report at the same time,” Arceneaux said. “For a new guy coming in, I have to be my best right away.

“Those one or two reps I get might be the only ones that determine the kind of player

I really am.”

Before the lockout began, Johnson spoke with the coaching staff with the Saints, including a chance to meet Sean Payton, the Super Bowl-winning head coach.

When Payton asked the Moss Point, Miss., native about himself, Johnson could hardly contain his excitement.

“I just told him how ready I am and how hungry I am,” Johnson said. “I told him there is no other player out there who is as hungry and as ready as I am. I had to catch myself and stop talking for a second.

“It was a good feeling. Hopefully, it’s the start of a great relationship.”

If Arceneaux never returns to the CFL, his final image in Canada will be that of his leaping touchdown grab against the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the West semi-

final — a play that sent the game to overtime.

He would like to pick up right where he left off, but who knows when the NFL machine will fire its engine back up again?

“I don’t see it as a disappointment,” Arceneaux said. “That dream I’ve been waiting for is still there. It’s just on hold.

“B.C. and the CFL were great to me for two years. They gave me an opportunity

I wasn’t getting anywhere else.

“They could have given it to any other athlete throughout North America, so I’m glad they gave it to me.”


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