The 2021 NFL season marked Olabisi Johnson's first fall without football since he was 7. A torn ACL suffered in training camp last July sidelined Johnson for nine months, just ahead of what many predicted could be a breakout year for the wide receiver.
But now, back taking snaps with the first-team offense at organized training activities Tuesday, the 2019 seventh-round pick has discovered a new passion for the sport he loves.
"I think you kind of get stagnant, you know?" Johnson said. "You're going through the same motions. You're going to work every day. You've been practicing every Monday through Friday the last three years I've been in the league. You know, as much as I still loved it, I probably lost it a little. And then I sat out a year and I'm like, 'I really missed this. I really missed football.'"
Johnson started three games in 2020, totaling 14 receptions for 189 yards. Filling in against the Panthers in Week 12 as Adam Thielen recovered from COVID-19, Johnson put together his best performance of the year, catching seven passes for 74 yards and converting a fourth-quarter two-point conversion.
As he comes back with a refreshed mind-set, he rejoins a team that refreshed itself.
"I think the energy is incredible around the building," Johnson said. "I think K.O. [head coach Kevin O'Connell] really has the whole team bought in."
The Lakewood, Colo., native spent most of his time recovering from the injury with sports on the TV.
In the down time, he found a hidden passion for hockey. He's rooting on his hometown Colorado Avalanche in the second round of the NHL playoffs against the St. Louis Blues, the same team that knocked out Johnson's second team, the Minnesota Wild.
He also got to watch his teammates, namely K.J. Osborn, excel in his place last season.
"It's tough," Johnson said. "But at that point, I just need to make amends. I'm injured, and I want what's best for my team, my teammates. I mean, I always do, even if I'm healthy and on the field. So, of course — K.J. had a great year; he balled out, did what he needed to do."
Osborn had 655 yards last season as the Vikings' third wide receiver, a spot the two players will compete for this offseason. They give quarterback Kirk Cousins plenty of options behind starters Thielen and Justin Jefferson.
"I remember thinking in Year 3 he was going to take a big step and really show up," Cousins said of Johnson. "Then unfortunately tore his knee in one-on-ones over here in training camp. I've always had a high opinion of him, and I do think in Year 4 here I expect him to have a very productive year and provide a great deal of depth for us."
Kicking spots up for grabs
Incumbent kicker Greg Joseph and punter Jordan Berry will battle with two undrafted rookie free agents for their jobs this summer, special teams coordinator Matt Daniels said Tuesday.
"There will be a full-on kicker competition and punter competition," he said. "That's why we brought in [kicker] Gabe Brkic and [punter] Ryan Wright — to push those veterans that we have and push each other. Competition makes us better, so we want to try and create as many gamelike situations as we can, but also pressure situations."
A four-year NFL veteran, Joseph converted 87% of his field-goal attempts last year, his first with the Vikings. Pre-draft experts listed Brkic as one of the top kickers in the class. He converted on 77% of his field-goal attempts and missed just one of 160 career extra-point attempts in college at Oklahoma.
Berry averaged 46.5 yards per punt in 2021 after spending six seasons with the Steelers. Wright finished his last season at Tulane at 47.5 yards per punt.
Davis vs. Reed for right guard
Veterans Jesse Davis and Chris Reed have rotated series at right guard with the first-team offense during spring practices. Rookie second-round draft pick Ed Ingram and second-year player Wyatt Davis could also be in play, but haven't mixed in with the starters yet.
"We've got a lot of time before we actually decide as far as who's starting day one, game one, against the Green Bay Packers, but we like the group that we have," offensive coordinator Wes Phillips said. "We like that there's a pool of talent there, and a lot of guys who have a lot of different skill sets that we can kind of just throw 'em out there and see how they progress, keep coaching 'em, and kind of see who rises to the top."