Former Tennessee linebacker A.J. Johnson experienced his first practice as a pro Monday with the Denver Broncos, less than a month after he was acquitted of aggravated rape charges.
“It’s a blessing to be a part of a team,” Johnson said afterward via the Chicago Tribune. “I’m excited to get out here, start working out and start working my tail off.”
Johnson and former Tennessee teammate Michael Williams were indicted in February 2015 after a woman said both men raped her during a party at Johnson’s apartment in the early morning hours of Nov. 16, 2014. Johnson and Williams were suspended from the team less than 48 hours after the party and never played for Tennessee again. Both men were acquitted of all counts on July 27.
Denver head coach Vance Joseph said after his acquittal, Broncos officials conducted intensive interviews with everyone associated with Johnson before signing him.
“We talked to all of his coaches. My cousin actually coached him at Tennessee. Zach (Azzanni, Denver’s new wide receivers coach),” Joseph said. “Everyone spoke highly about the guy, so we’ll see. Again, he wants to play football, he’s been training for two years to play football. He’s been here for four hours, so we’ll see how he fits in.”
Johnson, a four-year starter at Tennessee and a pro prospect whose invitation to the 2015 NFL combine was rescinded after charges were filed, says he always believed this day would come.
“I had faith. I trusted in God,” he said. “I kept working and being determined and kept pushing. I knew it was going to come.”