TEMPE — Arizona running back David Johnson skipped the first day of the Cardinals’ mandatory minicamp Tuesday amid reports that the sides are discussing a new contract.
Johnson, who led the NFL with 20 touchdowns in a breakout 2016 season before missing all but one game with a wrist injury last year, is scheduled to make $1,882,500 in the fourth and final year of his rookie contract.
Cardinals first-year coach Steve Wilks did not address Johnson’s situation specifically on the first day of the three-day minicamp, but teammates were supportive of his stance.
“He wants a new contract,” veteran safety Antoine Bethea said. “Especially the position he plays . obviously we know running backs, they have a short span here in the league. That’s all. He just wants him and his family to be stable. We get it. I respect it. I support it. I think anybody would.”
Johnson had 2,118 yards of total offense in 2016, behind only Le’Veon Bell and Ezekiel Elliott among NFL running backs. He had 1,239 yards rushing and 16 rushing touchdowns that season.
He suffered a dislocated wrist in the 2017 season opener at Detroit that kept him out for the rest of the season, and the Cardinals turned to Adrian Peterson and Kerwynn Williams to pick up the slack on an 8-8 team that also lost quarterback Carson Palmer to a season-ending broken arm in Week 7.
The Cardinals finished 30th in the league in rushing yards last season, coach Bruce Arians’ last. Neither Peterson not Williams is back this season.
“I’m going to keep my focus on the guys who are here,” Wilks said. “We are going to continue to take that step and get better. David is not here and we have to keep going. This is the National Football League. It doesn’t stop for myself of any other player.”
Bethea said that since the Cardinals are running a new system, “there are going to be some things that you miss” by not attending.
“But it is not anything that he is not going to be able to pick up,” he said. “He’s a smart guy. He’s been playing running back all his life. He’ll be fine.”
Johnson, a third-round draft pick out of Northern Iowa in 2015, had 15 straight games with at least 100 yards from scrimmage in 2016 after opening the season third on the depth chart. That tied Barry Sanders for the longest one-season streak in league history.
Johnson had 90 yards of total offense — 23 rushing, 67 receiving — against Detroit last year before being lost in the third quarter.
Wilks mentioned second-year player D.J. Foster and rookie fourth-round draft pick Chase Edmonds out of Fordham as running backs who caught his eye Tuesday. Foster played on the 2016 New England Super Bowl championship team and saw action in seven games with the Cardinals last year.
“When you look at what we try to do offensively, there is a rotation back there,” Wilks said. “You want a guy who is going to be able to step up who can give you the same elements from a standpoint of a three-down back.”