Johnson lets play do his talking

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:26 AM ET

The position is noted as the leader of the defence, which often means it features the biggest mouthpiece.

Looking around the CFL, there are plenty of examples of middle linebackers who talk as much as they tackle.

B.C. Lions' JoJuan Armour, Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Barrin Simpson and, of course, Edmonton Eskimos' Maurice Lloyd have shown they've never met a microphone they didn't like.

But the MLB for the Calgary Stampeders is a bit different.

When asked if he wanted to rebut any of Lloyd's comments about how the Eskimos feel slighted heading into today's West semifinal at McMahon Stadium, Tim Johnson takes a different tact.

The first-year CFLer learned at Youngstown State under coach Jim Tressel not to get involved in verbal sparring, especially before a big game.

"He always said to praise your opponents until you beat them," Johnson said. "Then you can focus on the next guy. This is a good team coming in and we have to respect them until we beat them.

"Who couldn't give good bulletin board material? But I choose to be a good teammate and represent this team and organization well.

"All the material you put on the bulletin board doesn't matter because this game will be played on the field."

Johnson came in midway through the season after the Eskimos torched the Stamps defence Aug. 13 at Commonwealth Stadium.

Rookie Tray Blackmon had shown potential, but the team was giving up way too many yards along the ground and needed some size up the middle.

In Johnson, they got a solid player with six years of NFL experience and who once blocked a punt in the Super Bowl.

The 31-year-old knew why he was coming on board, and he wasn't afraid to say the defence needed some leadership.

Instead of rubbing teammates the wrong way, the newcomer was embraced.

"Tim speaks his mind when we're in our little huddle, when we're in our locker-room -- he'll let it be known how he really feels," said cornerback Dwight Anderson.

"He's passionate about what he does and the guys feed off of that."

Even players on the other side of the ball recognize what Johnson has done.

When there was a locker-room argument in Montreal a month ago during a game against the Alouettes, the middle linebacker stepped in to break it up.

"He just focuses in on the task at hand and how to get the job done," said quarterback Henry Burris.

"But he gets the team riled up. He says the right things to get the team going.

"He's all about the team and that's the thing you've gotta love and respect about a leader like that."

IAN.BUSBY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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