The way Duke Johnson Jr. sees it, he's only getting started.
The third-round rookie running back broke out in a big way last week at San Diego, running eight times for 31 yards and catching a whopping nine passes for 85 yards in the losing effort.
He'll be looking to pick up where he left off Sunday at Baltimore. We caught up with him shortly after his final practice of the week.
CB.com: How'd it feel to get in the end zone for the first time last week?
Johnson: It felt great. I know we had some opportunities to get in the end zone. We were trying but didn't get in for whatever reason. But the first one always feels the best.
CB.com: Your preseason wasn't exactly ideal because of multiple injuries. What got you through it?
Johnson: The biggest thing I had was the hamstring. That kept me out longer than expected but of course we wanted to have precaution and be safe and get ready for the season. I didn't think any preseason games went toward your regular season record. It was more of a focus of getting ready for the regular season.
CB.com: What'd you learn through the process?
Johnson: I learned a lot. The main thing was the playbook. I stayed and made sure I honed in to the playbook. It was a matter of time before I came back and had to be able to pick up blitzes and see things before they happen.
CB.com: What's been the biggest transition for you to the NFL?
Johnson: Probably the speed. Even before that, I'd say at OTAs and mini camp and training camp when the veterans came back. Just the way they carry themselves, just the way they take care of their business. The coaches around here don't have to watch you and make sure you do what you have to do because you have a lot of veterans around here that do the right thing and they also make sure the rookies do the right thing.
CB.com: When did you get a semblance for what your role would be in this offense?
Johnson: I kind of got that pre-draft just because of the way I can perform. The guys upstairs did a great job of watching film and breaking me down because they came to me with the idea. It was always something in the back of my mind I knew I could do. Whichever team picked me was going to allow me to line up at wide receiver and do different things out of the backfield.
CB.com: How did you become such a good wide receiver?
Johnson: I would say it's all about being an athlete as a child. I played anywhere from defensive back to receiver. I kind of did it all and it just stayed with me through the years. I just made sure I kept touching up on it. Anytime in college we were doing running back drills during the summer, I would just go with the receivers because there's not too many running back drills I don't know how to do. I just want to touch up on my route-running and catching.
CB.com: When did you realize your path to the NFL would be because of your versatility?
Johnson: It was early. I think probably when I first got to (University of Miami). The older guys kind of saw it in me and they stayed on me to make sure anytime I had the opportunity to go to receiver, just go out there and catch passes and be involved because that could be another way I could make a squad in the NFL better.
CB.com: But you're more than just a guy who can catch passes out of the backfield.
Johnson: I think people overlook a lot because of my size on the sheet of paper doesn't say much. I'm 5-9, 206 or whatever they have me. A lot of people don't really think I can do what other guys can. That's just something that motivates me just because that's kind of been the thing through my whole career. I leave from high school to college, they say I'm too small to play running back in college and I'll have to switch positions. And now it's 'too small to block, too small to pick up blitzes, he won't be able to stand in there and do it.' I just go out there every day and protect my quarterback.
CB.com: What's the key to succeeding at those areas as a smaller guy?
Johnson: For me, it's about heart and pride. Of course hearing that, you may get beat here and there. But it's just the ability to get up and not get beat consistently. Show some fight, show some dog, show that you're willing to block. I think once people start watching on film, the more and more you show you're able to do it, the less likely they'll blitz you.
CB.com: Growing up in Miami, did you know much about the Browns-Ravens rivalry?
Johnson: I knew about it because some friends back home are Baltimore fans and my brother is a Pittsburgh fan. We always go back and forth and you hear them talk about it and you kind of figure it out. Coach (Wilbert) Montgomery actually gave us a brief history about it when we first came in and told us what the rivalry is really about.
CB.com: What's the key to maintaining this production on offense?
Johnson: First thing first is pass protection because I can't get out there every time and go out for a route. I have to make sure I stay in and block. I just leak out whenever I can. I think the main thing is focusing on the little details, little things we talk about and the little things we preach on. It's just about going out there and maintaining it.
CB.com: How badly does the team need a win?
Johnson: I think it's coming. I think we need it. The last game, we fought and we came out and we executed well, both sides. We just can't let it come down to the last play.