CHARLOTTE – Sidelined last week by a hamstring injury, defensive end Charles Johnson wants nothing more than to get back on the field for his Panthers.
That applies to the final three weeks of the season but also beyond this season.
"I don't want to go anywhere else," said Johnson, nearing the end of the one-year contract he signed in the offseason. "That's a given, but I'm not worrying about all that.
"I'd rather lose with these guys than win with anybody else. These are my guys. They come to work every day, so I can play with them and have fun while working. There's not a lot of places where you can do that."
Johnson, closing in on the end of his 10th NFL season, pledged his allegiance to the team that selected him in the third round of the 2007 in March. Less than a week after the Panthers released him in a cost-cutting move, he and the team agreed to a salary-cap friendly deal that brought Johnson back into the fold for 2016.
Before the injury, Johnson had been in on a sack in five of his last seven games. He still paces the team with 24 quarterback pressures.
"He's probably been our most consistent guy, and it's about steady, consistent play," head coach Ron Rivera said. "I know people want to see double-digit sack numbers, but Charles impacts things throughout the game with the way he plays the game, and he's been a tremendous leader.
"We'll see how it all goes, but yeah, I'd love to have him back."
The Panthers haven't officially weighed in on their interest level, and Johnson wouldn't discuss in any detail what kind of financial arrangement he'd be comfortable with this time around, only saying, "I still want to get paid" just as is the case in any line of work. But like the workhorse he is, Johnson politely addressed questions about playing here next year but is more focused on playing Monday night in Washington.
"Of course I still want to play, but I haven't thought beyond going day-by-day to get this hammy better," said Johnson, who is yet to practice since hurting his hamstring against Seattle. "I've been pushing it the last couple of days, so we'll see.
"I'm grinding. I've been grinding the whole season. Unfortunately I got hurt, so I'm just trying to get back and finish strong."