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Jarret Johnson Finally Gets His Due

There will be no Hall of Fame for retired Ravens linebacker Jarret Johnson.

As opposed to last week when safety Ed Reed retired, there was no immediate announcement of a place in the franchise's Ring of Honor.

Johnson never was named to* *a Pro Bowl. He played in the shadow of big-name defensive stars like Reed, Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata.

That's just fine with Johnson. He was never about all the attention. 

But when Johnson returned to Baltimore to retire as a Raven on Wednesday, the gesture clearly touched the tough-as-nails outside linebacker.

Johnson played for 12 years, including nine with the Ravens (2003-2011). He got his start in Baltimore and says he would still like to remain connected with the organization in some way in retirement.

The Ravens couldn't officially sign Johnson to a one-day contract because they don't have space on the roster right now (they will later), but it didn't matter.

Johnson was* *choked up, and at times at a loss for words.

"This is an honor for me to be sitting here," Johnson said after a deep breath to compose himself.

"To not be a Pro Bowler, maybe not a household name around the country, but in this building, in that stadium, to be appreciated … it's validation that you did it right."

That's what Johnson's football career was all about – just playing the game the right way.

General Manager Ozzie Newsome said he originally drafted Johnson in the fourth round because it was clear he was a "football player." On Tuesday, Newsome said Johnson was the poster child for the team's "Play Like A Raven" slogan.

"With Double-J, you knew every day what you were going to get," Newsome said.

"Not only does he fit the term of being a football player, but he was a tempo setter. He set the tempo in our locker room, he set the tempo in the classroom, he set the tempo out on the practice field and he definitely set the tempo on Sundays when we would play games."

Johnson was overlooked his entire career, right from the start.

He recalled being told he would be a second- or third-round pick in the 2003 NFL Draft. The Dallas Cowboys called him during the third round and told him to pay attention because they were probably about to pick him.

Instead, with pick No. 69 overall, Dallas drafted tight end Jason Witten. Baltimore drafted Johnson 40 picks later. Johnson was disappointed, but soon came to appreciate what it meant to be a Raven.

He learned from defensive teammates Kelly Gregg, Marques Douglas, Tony Weaver, Adalius Thomas, Lewis, Suggs and Reed. Then, over time, Johnson became one of those veteran leaders who the franchise pointed to as the example of how to play Ravens defense.

"I was smart enough and tough enough to learn from them and become one of those guys," Johnson said. "All of a sudden you look back and there are guys doing it like you did it."

Johnson was a self-made football player.

He was too light to be a defensive tackle like he was in college, where he was a two-time captain at Alabama. Entering his fourth year, he was expecting to compete with Trevor Pryce at defensive end when he was told by then Defensive Coordinator* *Rex Ryan to go with the linebackers.

"It worked out," Johnson said. "It ended up turning into a career."

Johnson played in 129 consecutive games, becoming the Ravens' Iron Man and franchise leader until punter Sam Koch surpassed him last season. He played through countless injuries, and it's something he takes immense pride in.

Over his 12 seasons, he logged 350 career tackles, 25.5 sacks, three interceptions and 11 forced fumbles. Perhaps the most telling characteristic was that he clobbered countless running backs, tight ends and any other blocker coming his way. He described his favorite hit with one word: "Hines."

Johnson did the dirty work for the Ravens defense. He set the edge as well or better than anybody in the league. Johnson was talented, smart and made a lot of the calls for the defense, getting everybody lined up correctly before the snap.

"This guy is a man," Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees said. "We had a lot of long talks about things other than just football – about family, about everything. This guy is my friend besides being my player. It was like coaching another coach."

Pees shared a classroom story about Johnson. He used to draw a big circle on the white board beside his seat and called it his "Circle of Trust."

"When your initials went in there, you were proud as heck because that meant that guy respected you," Pees said with a laugh.

Johnson went to the San Diego Chargers for the final three years of his career. But the Ravens never left Johnson's circle.

The only shame of Johnson's Baltimore career was that he never won a Super Bowl during it. He came to the Ravens three years after the franchise's first title in 2000 and departed one year before their second in 2012.

When the Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII, Johnson was flooded with text messages and calls asking if he was upset because he missed out. Instead, Johnson was celebrating, and was one of the first to text Head Coach John Harbaugh congratulations.

"My heart was always here, and when they won it, I was a fan," Johnson said.

"I promise you, the text back was basically, 'You are a huge part of this, and you helped build this,'" Harbaugh said.

The former Ravens linebacker retired after 12 NFL seasons, including nine in Baltimore.

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