Philadelphia Eagles safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson was just crouching down to take a seat as reporters started creeping toward his locker stall on Sunday night. His neon green hair was reflecting off his designer shades, with a big smile perched on his face.
Gardner-Johnson was the man of the hour following a 2-interception performance against the hated Dallas Cowboys. Minutes earlier, the 24-year-old safety was jumping up and down on the sideline and amping up the crowd at Lincoln Financial Field. His perfect read on a Cooper Rush pass intended for CeeDee Lamb all but sealed a 26-17 victory.
“I am blessed to be there. I cannot say too comfortable, because once you get comfortable, you don’t get better,” Gardner-Johnson said. “I think every day is a learning process for me. I still left some plays on the field. There is still a lot of stuff out there that I can fix and clean up.”
Remember, it hasn’t even been two months since the Eagles pulled off a surprise trade for the 2019 fourth-rounder who spent his first three seasons in New Orleans. He’s still taking his lumps and swallowing his pride while accepting “tough love” from the coaching staff as the new kid on the block.
“It’s a humbling experience for me because I had to swallow my pride when I first got here,” Gardner-Johnson said. “I think I was the new guy coming in, coming in loud, showboating. But it’s like, I’m not here to do showboating, I’m here to get better, improve and help this team win.”
Don’t Get It Twisted: Bye Week Not Relaxation Time
Gardner-Johnson sat out 16 snaps against Dallas after going down hard in the third quarter. It appeared to be a shoulder or arm injury on first glance as he grimaced in pain and quickly called for trainers. It wasn’t. Gardner-Johnson is dealing with a deep cut on his left hand, something he called a “boo boo” and brushed off.
The Eagles are on bye this week, which means plenty of time for that wound to heal. They also own the best record in football at 6-0, but that isn’t an excuse for them to rest on their laurels. No relaxation. No quit.
“I have played a lot of winning football, but this is just a learning curve. Every step you have to get better,” Gardner-Johnson said. “With it being the bye week, it is not a relaxation time. It is time to focus in on your body and focus on what you can do to fix yourself, so when you come back after the bye week, you do not leave it on the field.
“The best thing for us is to continue to get better on and off the field as a team, on and off the field as we are watching film, and finding the little things that we can fine-tune to make this run into the postseason.”
Gardner-Johnson Making His Presence Known
Gardner-Johnson isn’t one of those guys who talks a big game without backing it up. While it’s true he has turned getting under people’s skin is an art form – and knows how to look innocent doing it — it fires up his own teammates to make plays. His energy is infectious, according to A.J. Brown.
“I think it’s just his presence. He makes his presence known,” Brown said. “He’s flying around, he’s talking, and he wants to create a big hit to give us momentum. His energy is infectious.”