Ex-Falcon Darius Johnson eyes NFL return

Flip on the first-half film from last year's Atlanta Falcons-New Orleans Saints showdown at the Georgia Dome and one player sticks out: Darius Johnson.

The former Falcons receiver, then an undrafted rookie out of Southern Methodist who began on the practice squad, made a name for himself with five catches for 65 yards before halftime. He almost had a touchdown, but the play was ruled short of the end zone following a review.

"After the game, I watched it again," Johnson said of the nationally televised Thursday night matchup, a 17-13 loss. "Just to see Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders talking about me, it was really cool. It was a wonderful feeling."

As good as Johnson felt at that moment, his passion for the game dwindled over a period of time. The end result was an abrupt decision to leave the Falcons in July, coming off a season during which he caught 22 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown. The team officially waived Johnson after he expressed a desire to walk away from football.

"I just had to get myself right," Johnson said. "I had gotten myself out of a relationship with God. I just had to get myself right with him. And I just wasn't happy with what I was dealing with. Everybody said I was crazy because I couldn't make money (walking away), but money isn't everything. If you're not happy, you're just not happy."

Johnson considered pursuing a coaching opportunity at his old school, SMU. After months of self-reflection, he has decided to give the NFL another shot. Johnson said he has a workout scheduled with the New York Giants next week. He said his former college coach, June Jones, is trying to help him secure a look from the Denver Broncos as well.

Such a decision no doubt will look like a slap in the face to his former teammates, but Johnson understands a return to the Falcons would be virtually impossible.

"That would be the ideal situation, to be back in the position I was in," he said. "My agent has been talking to them, but I have no idea what they would do."

Johnson thought he was in decent shape to make the roster before his decision to leave. That was before Devin Hester's emergence and before special-teams needs surfaced for guys such as Courtney Roby and Eric Weems.

"When I was talking to coach Mike Smith, he was telling me I was the fourth receiver and they were looking for me to do big things this year," Johnson said. "I told my agent about my situation and then we talked to (general manager) Thomas Dimitroff. That's it."

Johnson was arrested for a DUI in May. The Falcons refused to classify his departure as related to any disciplinary action.

"That had nothing to do with it," Johnson said of the arrest. "That had happened months before."

Johnson was asked if he has drinking problem.

"No," he responded.

As he proceeds with his plans for a return, it's interesting to note the Falcons play the Giants in Week 5. If next week's workout goes well, it could make for an interesting reunion come Oct. 5.