The presence of Pro Bowlers like inside linebacker Ray Lewis (12 times), free safety Ed Reed (seven), outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (four) and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (two) tends to dominate the headlines.
Outside linebacker Jarret Johnson elbowed his way onto center stage when he was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week on Tuesday. In Sunday night’s 34-17 victory over the New York Jets, Johnson scooped up a fumble caused when Ngata slammed into quarterback Mark Sanchez, and Johnson returned it 26 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.
Johnson also finished with three tackles (one for a loss), two quarterback hits and one pass defensed.
For years, Johnson has been followed by the “underrated” label, which gets a somewhat pained reaction from the nine-year veteran.
“I just get tired of being called the gritty overachiever who is somehow still here but manages to make plays,” he said. “It doesn’t really bother me, but I want to be known for what I am. In this room and in other places in the league, I’m a pretty damn good football player. Just like Rex doesn’t want to be known as the guy who is talking trash, Rex is one of the best all-around football coaches in the league – top to bottom. I just want to be known as a good player, not just as that overachiever, smart guy.”
Johnson has more than proven himself since the organization selected him in the fourth round in 2003 as a defensive lineman. Johnson has made 75 consecutive starts (including playoffs) and has played in 117 straight contests, which is a franchise record.
Last week, New York coach and former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan took a moment during his conference call with Baltimore media to single out Johnson for praise.
“I’ll tell you a guy that’s underrated is Jarret Johnson,” Ryan said last Wednesday. “I mean he’s had that label forever. We used to laugh about it. He’s always a ‘hard-working, blue-collar guy.’ Well, that’s what he is. He’s tougher than heck, and he’s a lot more talented than people give him credit for. He’s playing great.”