Detroit Lions defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson has been known to get in the head of the opponent on the field, but even after Wednesday’s practice with the Jacksonville Jaguars was long over, Gardner-Johnson lingered in the mind of receiver Calvin Ridley. During Gardner-Johnson’s media session after practice, Ridley interrupted.
“He’s a good player, man, but he talks too damn much,” Ridley said.
To be clear, Ridley was joking. He and Gardner-Johnson go way back to high school days as young talents growing up in Florida. There is very much a game-recognize-game relationship between the two.
But it would be impossible to talk about the opening joint practice between the Lions and Jaguars without mentioning how big of an impact Gardner-Johnson had, both physically and mentally. He came crashing down to blow up Jaguars running back Travis Etienne for a big hit that caused a scuffle between the two teams. A little later, he reportedly did the same to receiver Jamal Agnew, jarring the ball loose.
“To be the most feared DB in the league, you’ve got to be able to tackle,” Gardner-Johnson said after practice.
Team rules and general decency prevent me from reporting on what he was saying to the Jaguars skill position players, but he certainly was talking... a lot—a right he believe he’s earned through his play.
“Everyone knows we can talk, but when you back it up, you can talk as much crap as you want to,” Gardner-Johnson said. “I think when I play at a high level, it feed into my teammates.”
Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson can attest to that.
“He’s one of a kind, man. I’m glad he’s on my team,” Hutchinson said. “Even today, he shows why we brought him here. He’s a hard-hitter, man. He’s willing to come down and bring the juice. When practice might be a little lackadaisical, he’s going to come up and make a play and get the boys going.”
According to the man himself, there’s only one time of the day in which Gardner-Johnson turns off the intensity and trash talking.
“Sleep. Until I wake up. (Then it’s) like I’m cutting the car on. You’ve just got to keep going until the car run on empty. But this (facility) is the gas station, so I guess I’m fueled up everyday.”
The Jaguars receivers did get their own during Wednesday’s. Ridley scored at least two touchdowns ons the day, including an absolute bomb in which there was a communication problem in the secondary. Tight end Evan Engram and Zay Jones also scored during red zone drills. But the Lions defensive backs bounced back nicely, with Brian Branch recording a couple of pass deflections, and both Cameron Sutton and Malcolm Rodriguez notching interceptions.