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Jets' camera-shy owner stands with his players ... on and off the field

"Him standing with us means a lot," one Jets player said of owner Christopher Johnson locking arms with them during the national anthem. "It shows he's with us." Al Bello/Getty Images

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Since taking over day-to-day control of the New York Jets in June, Christopher Johnson has maintained a low profile. He has conducted only one mass interview, but there were no photographers and TV cameras. He has no desire to cultivate a Jerry Jones image, but that doesn't mean he's not involved.

Johnson has made an impact behind the scenes, with some players saying his presence at the facility and keen interest in player-related issues have helped improve the environment at One Jets Drive.

On Dec. 19, Johnson accompanied Kelvin Beachum, Demario Davis and Josh McCown to the Bronx public defender's office, where they spent a full day -- 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. -- learning about perceived oppression in the criminal-justice system.

The NFL Players Coalition is trying to raise awareness on social issues, and this was Johnson's way of delivering on a promise he made early in the season.

In September, when the protests during the national anthem were the raging story in the league, Johnson told his players he would take an active role in listening to their concerns and trying to explore ways to help. It wasn't just lip service. Since then, he has met with team leaders at least five times. He took it to another level by traveling with them to the Bronx.

"It was a very educational experience, I learned a lot," said Davis, who, along with Beachum, has represented the Jets at league meetings on the topic. "It was cool to have Chris there. He stayed the whole day, learning as much as we did. We were able to reconvene and talk about how we can use our platform to help in that area."

Davis said the public defenders covered a lot of ground, telling them about the challenges of operating within a criminal-justice system they believe contains certain biases. They talked in depth about how those biases affect the bail process, discovery of evidence and the timeliness of trials.

Johnson has been a hit with the players since taking over for older brother and owner Woody Johnson, who accepted a post as the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom. Unlike his brother, whose trips to the facility were infrequent in 2016 because of his involvement in the Trump campaign, Christopher is a visible presence. He watches practice, mingles with the players and often eats with them in the cafeteria. It's not a daily thing, but he's around often enough to make an impression.

"It makes him real, it makes him human, not just a figure," Davis said. "When you see him, he's somebody you want to go up to and shake his head and talk to. It's not just a team owner-player conversation, it's real life."

The seminal moment was Sept. 24, when Johnson stood with his players -- arms linked -- during the national anthem. What impressed them was that he met individually with players before the game, asking if he could stand with them. That resonated among the players.

"We've been standing together the whole year and we're going to finish it up that way on Sunday," nose tackle Steve McLendon said. "Him standing with us means a lot. It shows he's with us."

Ultimately, owners are judged the same way as everybody else in the business: wins and losses. Johnson is 5-10 as the acting owner, and he faces some big decisions in the coming days. From all indications, he will stick with general manager Mike Maccagnan and coach Todd Bowles. He is expected to meet the media again after the season, but you probably won't see pictures or TV clips.