As the Browns wrapped up their final practice before last week's game against the Redskins, Cam Johnson was finishing up one of his own -- thousands of miles away from Cleveland or Washington D.C.
Within 48 hours, Johnson went from a member of the Cardinals practice squad to back with the team of which he spent all of training camp. Signed Saturday afternoon, Johnson was not only on the field 24 hours later, but also making significant plays in Cleveland's back-and-forth loss to the Redskins. The third-year linebacker registered two second-half sacks in 17 snaps, a total that gives him the team lead as the Browns prepare for Sunday's game against the Patriots.
"It was a crazy 24 hours but like I've been telling everyone here, I just kept my faith the whole time things would work out," Johnson said. "All I could ask for was an opportunity. I got that and I tried to make the most of it."
Johnson, who initially joined the Browns last season, made a number of plays throughout training camp and earned praise for his performance from his linebackers coaches. He was released one day after rosters were trimmed to 53, caught up in the numbers game after the Browns made waiver claims on five players.
Johnson's confidence wasn't fazed, and what happened Sunday was a byproduct of it.
"You can always go into a game thinking of the best-case scenario. It just happened to happen for me," Johnson said. "I just stuck to it, kept playing hard and tried to make something happen."
Johnson is the latest Browns pass rusher to be plugged into a seemingly adverse situation and thrive at an early opportunity.
One week earlier, Corey Lemonier, a former teammate of Johnson's who was one of the five players claimed off waivers before the start of the season, strip-sacked Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill and set up Cleveland with a game-winning field goal attempt. Tyrone Holmes, also claimed before the start of the season, has brought consistent pressure from the edge.
This trio has helped fill the void left by Carl Nassib, who has missed the past two weeks with a broken hand, and Nate Orchard, who was placed on injured reserve because of an ankle injury, on an already young defense.
"We are going to play everybody. I think that is a common theme all season long, it will be, and playing the hot hand," defensive coordinator Ray Horton said. "We are trying to develop quality players that are going to take this franchise where it wants to go, and when you get production from young players who really were not on our team to start the training camp, it is encouraging.
"The challenge is can you do it two weeks in a row? Can you do it all season? We are trying to find those players that are young, budding franchise players, meaning cornerstones for us to build upon and play well week in and week out."
That will be the task for Johnson and the rest of Cleveland's young pass rushers against a New England offense that will be boosted by the return of Tom Brady, who has made a living off quick, accurate throws and avoiding unnecessary contact.
"Hopefully what it shows is that we know how to put players in position to have success, and he did," Browns coach Hue Jackson said. "Again, we have been plugging and playing since we started this thing, and again I want to give my staff a lot of credit because I think they are doing a heck of a job – maybe not the job that everybody wants or expects, but I think my staff is working tirelessly trying to do anything and everything we can to help our players be the best they can be.
"I think our players are giving themselves and trying to give everything they have, so it is twofold, but we know we have to keep working at it."