Sharp pain no longer runs through Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Jarret Johnson’s surgically-repaired right shoulder.
Scars and hoisting less heavy metal in the weight room are the primary reminders of the separated shoulder and torn labrum that Johnson endured all of last season.
Now, he’s ready to inflict some pain.
Regarded as one of the toughest, most aggressive players on the team, Johnson wound up having a banner season despite the loss of strength. He simply gritted his teeth and did his job.
"Jarret is the kind of guy, you can’t get him off the field," coach John Harbaugh said. "He may have a serious injury; he may be out there playing with one arm. You try to take him out, and you’ve got a fight on your hands. He’s fighting with one arm, but he still doesn’t want to come out."
A humble, low-key Florida native, Johnson has been through more trying experiences than a busted shoulder.
When Johnson was nearly 8, his father, Ludwig Johnson, was lost at sea and never found. His mother, Aida Johnson, raised Johnson by herself while working at a hospital.
So, Johnson comes from tough stock.
And when he says he felt a lot of pain last season, people are definitely inclined to believe him.
"It was pretty painful," Johnson said. "The separation was the most painful part. The labrum was just limited strength, limited motion. It wasn’t so bad as long as the shoulder was in tight, but anything outside was pretty painful.
Last season, he recorded 70 tackles, a career-high six sacks, one forced fumble and two interceptions. The only two-time captain in Alabama history, Johnson hasn’t missed a game since 2003. He has played in 97 consecutive regular-season games.
Never selected to the Pro Bowl, Johnson doesn’t care much about personal accolades.
Among his peers, though, Johnson is highly respected for his grit and for his ability to transition to a standup outside linebacker position after playing defensive tackle and defensive end in college and with his hand down in the dirt to begin his NFL career.
"I’ve gotten a little more popular and a little more pub every year, but it doesn’t change the fact that the only reason that I’m getting more recognition is because I improve every year," Johnson said. "That’s the only thing I’m focused on this year.
"I don’t care about the Pro Bowl. I don’t care about respect. All I care about is being better than the year before. That’s it."
About the only debilitating effects Johnson has felt from the injury is a clicking sound when he throws a football. He proclaimed himself to be 100 percent healthy, but acknowledged that his strength isn’t up to par in the weight room.
That’s traditionally the last attribute to come back after regaining full range of motion and flexibility. Still, it kind of bothers Johnson to not be able to bench press as much as he once could. He discovered a personal weightlifting sheet from last year when he was bench pressing 350 pounds for sets of four and five repetitions.
"Those days are over," Johnson said. "Now, it’s more like 180, 225, stuff like that. It was a little depressing when I saw that, but overall my strength is pretty good."
Johnson has spent countless hours rehabilitating the shoulder. After playing last season as essentially a one-armed bandit, it’s a relief for him to start approaching his old capabilities.
"I was surprised at how quick they have you moving," Johnson said. "They have you in there the day after surgery doing your range of motion stuff and moving it around. It was amazing how quick they got me back in there. Just kind of progressing every day, moving up more and more."
Johnson is proud of last season and encouraged by what he and the entire defense might be able to accomplish this year. Especially now that he’s got two working arms.
One of the feistiest players on the team, Johnson is known for fighting at the drop of a hat if he gets riled up enough. Now, he can throw punches with both hands if the situation arises.
"Last year was the best season I’ve had in my career," Johnson said. "The year before that was my best year. I’m just hoping that this year is going to be another best year of my career. As long as I do that, I’ll keep playing."