Matt Johnson hopes this is the year

IRVING, Texas -- Matt Johnson remains the most mysterious of all Dallas Cowboys.

In his third season with the Cowboys, he has yet to play a game. Hamstring, back and foot injuries have kept him off the field in his first two seasons. He is like some sort of myth.

The questions asked to him on Tuesday after the first organized team activities (OTAs) were the same asked to him last spring.

“I can just repeat my answers from last year,” Johnson joked. “I feel like it’s been a long time since I’ve been in a groove playing football really since my senior year in college. It’s just good to get back out there with the guys and compete and kind of gear up for a new season.”

He hopes the new season isn’t like the old season. The Cowboys have been extremely patient with Johnson, perhaps more than they should have been. Johnson understands the angst fans have toward him.

“I have to own it, there’s no other way,” Johnson said. “I’ve been hurt. I haven’t proven myself. I haven’t proven why they drafted me.”

The Cowboys drafted Johnson in the fourth round out of Eastern Washington because of his abilities to make plays. He had 17 interceptions in four seasons. He had a four-interception game against Portland State as a sophomore.

All of that is so long ago, but Johnson still has a chance to deliver on what the Cowboys saw in him in 2012. They waited until the seventh round to draft a safety earlier in the month (Ahmad Dixon) and have yet to add a veteran. J.J. Wilcox, a third-round pick last year, is working with the starters now. Johnson is working the second team with Jeff Heath.

The screw in his foot will remain unless it starts to bother him. So far it hasn’t. He hasn’t had an issue with his hamstrings in more than a year, but he quickly looked to knock on wood once he said it.

Even though he hasn’t shown it, he feels he has improved.

“Mentally is the only way,” Johnson said. “I’ve tried to get better at my footwork when I’ve been out there, but I’m grasping the game better. It’s slowed down for me definitely from my rookie minicamp to now. The game is a lot slower. I want to get in a groove each day. I see myself progressing whereas before it was progress, progress, progress, have a setback. It would be nice to keep it going for a while.”