- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 18, 2000

Quarterback Brad Johnson and agent Philip C. Williams have talked quite a bit this summer but not about the subject most would expect: Johnson's expiring contract.

The pact runs out after this season, and the Redskins have made virtually no effort to re-sign Johnson to a long-term deal even though he passed for 4,005 yards and earned his first Pro Bowl appearance in 1999. In fact, Williams can hardly remember when the last conversation took place.

Instead of badgering Williams about his NFL future, Johnson has discussed a variety of lighter subjects.

Like golf. His family. Outside interests. And even a little football.

"Honestly, we haven't even been thinking about [the contract]," Williams said from Atlanta yesterday. "We don't talk about it at all."

The reason is this: Johnson, 31, has reached a state of tranquility about the Redskins' plans and his own future. He sees a win-win situation. If the Redskins make an attractive long-term offer, Johnson will consider it. If not, he is the starting quarterback for a Super Bowl contender and can become an unrestricted free agent in the spring.

"That stuff will take care of itself," Johnson said. "I'd like my career to be here with the Redskins, but [finding out] just takes time."

Johnson spoke on the first day of the early session of training camp, in which quarterbacks, rookies and select veterans participate before full camp opens Thursday. The veteran, in his ninth season, said he was unsure whether he would prefer to be playing under a multiyear contract.

"That's hard to say," Johnson said. "One part [of me] says, yeah, you always want to have a contract in hand. [But] my contract still isn't up. So I'll play it out, and when it's time to deal with negotiations we will."

The Redskins chose not to negotiate with Johnson when it became clear they had a number of other big contracts to sort out. The club signed a variety of free agents, is finishing talks with two first-round draft picks and is attempting to get franchise player Stephen Davis into camp.

"We have every intention [of negotiating with Johnson], but we have the other guys that we have to get done first," player personnel director Vinny Cerrato said. "There is a game plan."

Meanwhile, Johnson has waited without worry, even when the Redskins signed Jeff George the NFL's third-rated passer last season as his backup.

"My job doesn't change," said Johnson, the fifth-ranked quarterback in 1999. "My approach doesn't change. I feel like I proved a lot of things last year; I feel like I have a lot to prove this year. I worked hard, had a great offseason, and I really don't get caught up in all the distractions."

A recent Sports Illustrated article quoted coach Norv Turner saying Johnson had initial difficulty accepting a second-string quarterback that threatened his job. Yesterday Johnson said his feelings weren't "anything crazy" and that he was more emotional about the departures of backup quarterbacks Rodney Peete and Casey Weldon.

"I thought all three of us would be back together," Johnson said. "All three of us were best friends. That has a lot to do with the year of a quarterback. Then we went through the change, and [team officials] wanted to talk about it, and I said, 'That's fine, this is your team.' We move on and make the best of the situation."

Johnson spent recent weeks in Tallahassee, Fla., continuing a 10-year relationship with trainer Alex Seranos. Johnson did two-a-day workouts five days a week and worked out once the other two days. The workouts involved sprints, agility drills in sand and the medicine ball.

Johnson has altered his regimen since his days at Florida State but says he brings the same enthusiasm that earned him best-conditioned honors four out of five years with the Seminoles. The recent training has allowed Johnson, who started 16 games in 1999 for the first time in his career, to report in peak condition.

"This year is different [than last year]," he said. "[Last year] I came off of two knee surgeries, so when camp started I wasn't physically ready. This year this is the best shape I've been in about three years. I feel great."

And he and Williams feel great about Johnson's future despite the expiring contract.

"If you look at the NFL, it's not normal for a player particularly a quarterback of Brad's stature it's not normal for something [contract-wise] not to be going on," Williams said. "… [But] I can't overemphasize something enough: Both Brad and I are very much relaxed about his situation."

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