Johnson, who spent his first five seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, had never missed the playoffs in those five years. For him, Peyton Manning and the rest of their Colts teammates, the regular season was simply prologue for what they hoped would be a Super Bowl run.
"It's going to be surreal," Johnson said. "I've never had a season like this. You get used to gearing up for the playoffs and trying to get to the Super Bowl. It's even weirder this year because the Super Bowl will be in Indy. I'm sure the Colts guys feel the same way."
Last year, the Dallas Cowboys were preparing to play the Super Bowl in their home stadium. Instead, their disappointing season led to 10 losses. As the Colts prepared for the 2011 season, they had the same dream – with even more disastrous results, going 2-14 and not only missing the playoffs, but earning the first pick in April's draft.
Johnson isn't sure what he's going to do during the wild card weekend of the playoffs, but said he won't be boycotting the games.
"It might have been one thing if we had been knocked out of the playoffs on the final week of the season," Johnson said. "But we've known for the last few weeks that we weren't going to the playoffs, so there isn't that feeling you have when you believe you're going to the Super Bowl and one loss eliminates you. I'll probably check out the games, but it will definitely be a different feeling."
Johnson doesn't know what the future is going to hold for him and his Vikings teammates and has reason for his own concern. His exit from Indianapolis was predicated by the Colts drafting left tackle Anthony Castonzo is the first round of last April's draft and the Vikings are widely being speculated as having their sights on USC left tackle Matt Kalil. For the second straight year, he faces the potential of having his team draft a player at his position in the first round with every intention of starting him from Day One.
"That's part of the business," Johnson said. "I don't know what's going to happen in the offseason. All I can do is prepare myself to stay in shape and work hard to improve for next season. All players can control is keeping themselves in a position to play when the time comes. The decision on who plays is up to the coaching staff and front office. I can't concern myself about who might be coming in or not. You do your best and keep focused on being out there. There isn't much more I can do."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.