“I’m going to be there for sure next week,” Johnson said Thursday on “Keyshawn, JWill and Max” on ESPN Radio. “I know I had a lot of things off the field going on.”
Johnson said his absence from Chicago’s voluntary offseason program is due to him spending time with his young daughter in his hometown of Fresno, California. The cornerback, who was named the Bears’ nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, said he has also been active in creating business opportunities and fundraisers for his nonprofit, Kevvy’s Vision Project, which he started in honor of Kev’Vion Schrubb, who was killed by gun violence in 2021.
Johnson is one of several Bears players not in attendance for OTAs, a list that also includes recently signed guard Nate Davis, safety Eddie Jackson and wide receiver Darnell Mooney. Jackson and Mooney have been present at Halas Hall rehabbing from injuries that cut their 2022 seasons short.
Bears coach Matt Eberflus did not disclose specifics about Johnson’s absence other than it not being injury related. Johnson was placed on injured reserve in late December after sustaining a hand injury.
Eberflus hinted Wednesday that he expected Johnson to return for the last set of OTA workouts.
“Hopefully he’ll be here, you know, he’ll probably be here for mandatory minicamp,” Eberflus said. “Hopefully next week, potentially.”
Chicago’s mandatory minicamp is scheduled for June 13-15. NFL teams can choose whether to fine players for unexcused absences from mandatory minicamp, with a maximum fine of $15,515 for the first missed day, $31,030 for the second and $46,540 for the third day.
Bears cornerbacks coach Jon Hoke said that Johnson has taken part in meetings virtually and praised the 24-year-old for staying engaged while away from the team.
“He texts me almost every other day,” Hoke said. “He’ll ask questions because he watches practice tape and all that.”
Johnson’s absence is highlighted by the cornerback entering a contract year. The Bears have yet to extend any players eligible from the 2020 draft class, which includes Johnson, Mooney and tight end Cole Kmet. Wide receiver Chase Claypool, who was traded from Pittsburgh to Chicago last November, is also eligible for a contract extension as a 2020 draftee.
In the week leading up to Super Bowl LVII, Johnson told NBC Sports Chicago that he expected contract talks to “heat up in due time.” So far, no deal has been reached.
On ESPN Radio, Johnson described how his mindset has changed regarding a potential extension.
“Honestly, for me, it used to be a lot of pressure,” Johnson said. “I would even say for me going into my third year, I felt like that was the year for me to put myself out there to be able to have a new contract, to be able to re-up. For me, it’s just about going out and being who I am. I know I can be a dominant corner. I am a dominant corner in this league, following No. 1 wide receivers and just finding ways to continue to do my job at a high rate, continue to be a better teammate, continue to find ways to win.”
Since being drafted in the second round in 2020, Johnson has not been part of a winning season in Chicago. The cornerback has one interception through 39 career games, along with three tackles for loss, 31 passes defended and two forced fumbles.
“With winning comes paychecks, and I think at the end of the day, I need to focus on winning,” Johnson said. “That’s what I’m worried about going into Year 4.”