Sure, that's business in the NFL, where the start of the free agency period tends to take on all the calm of the opening bell on Wall Street. But you don't replace classy players like Johnson every day.
Not only was he a solid, if unspectacular, run-stopping linebacker, he was one of the Ravens quiet leaders and a calming influence, especially before big games, when the locker room was vibrating with tension and anxiety.
When I asked
Stoic, unflappable and sturdy as they come, Johnson started every game for the Ravens the past four seasons. He played in 130 straight games, a team record. It would take a bone popping out of the skin to sideline the guy, and maybe even that wouldn't do it.
NFL people love to toss around the term "blue-collar" to describe guys like Johnson: tough, no-nonsense players who do their job well day after day without whining and drama. But that was Jarret Johnson, all right. He was -- and is -- the very definition of the term.
I still carry the memory of how serene Johnson was in the Ravens locker room on the Friday before their playoff game with the
Some of the younger Ravens -- I remember
(Of course, we in the media thought it was their way of trying to intimidate us and make us look foolish, always a favorite pastime in NFL locker rooms. Thin-skinned? Paranoid? Us? Nah.)
But that day, I happened to be talking to Jarret Johnson when the media-dunking broke out. Looking out at the howling chaos breaking out around him, Johnson wore a bemused expression. Then he shook his head softly and murmured: "I'm not getting involved in that."
The unspoken message to the young players was clear: Act like you've played in big games before. Act like a pro.