He longs for those days now.
"I don't really play, so I'm never sore," the New York Jets running back told ESPN.com on Thursday.
The former 2,000-yard rusher, who carried the ball only three times for 7 yards in last weekend's loss to the Buffalo Bills, said he's frustrated with his limited role in the Jets' offense.
Johnson doesn't want to be perceived as a complainer, but he acknowledged this has been a difficult season. After rushing for at least 1,000 yards in each of his first six seasons, he might be hard-pressed to crack 500. He reached the midpoint with 268 yards on 67 carries.
"It's been frustrating," he said. "You have a lot of different levels of frustration. You have frustration when you're playing and things aren't going well, or you're not making plays.
"That's not this type of frustration, because it's not like I've had the opportunity to really make plays. That's more of the frustration, not getting the opportunity to be on the field, trying to help the team win.
"This is the first time I've ever felt this type of frustration, but there's nothing I can really do about it right now."
After he was released by the Titans, Johnson signed a two-year, $8 million contract. He expected to share carries with incumbent Chris Ivory, but he was so confident in his ability to recapture his old form that he figured his role would grow throughout the season.
Two weeks ago, Johnson and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg discussed the possibility of more carries. After a productive game against the New England Patriots (13 carries for 61 yards), he was an afterthought against the Bills.
Asked if he's "excited" about the second half of the season, a somber Johnson said, "I really don't know. If it's going like it's been going, there's nothing to be excited about or look forward to. I don't know what's really going to change."
It doesn't help that the Jets (1-7) have lost seven straight.
When they signed him, the Jets felt Johnson still had plenty of explosiveness left in his 29-year-old legs. Aside from a 35-yard touchdown run, his trademark speed hasn't been evident on a consistent basis.
Rex Ryan insisted Johnson isn't being phased out of the offense.
"No, I don't believe so," the coach said. "I think he will get plenty of shots at it this week [against the Kansas City Chiefs]."
Johnson said he didn't make any demands when he spoke with Mornhinweg, and he doesn't foresee a situation where he'd ever do that. That's not his style.
"I'm trying not to be that guy, the guy that becomes a distraction," he said. "We're 1-7, and everybody is trying to get a win. I don't want to be that guy who's not really worried about winning, but trying to get more carries.
"I don't know how to look at it. I don't know how they'd look at it. I've never been in this situation before. I just want to win. I feel like I can help this team win. I would love to have more opportunities."