McCombs: Cardinals safety Rashad Johnson legendary in leaving piece of finger behind

mmccombs@islandpacket.comSeptember 24, 2013 

If Rashad Johnson suits up and plays Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he will become a gamer in the truest sense of the word.

Of course, over the history of football, countless boys and men have taken the field banged-up, bloodied, bruised and almost broken.

But Johnson is in Ronnie Lott territory.

The Arizona Cardinals safety tackled New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles on a punt return Sunday when he injured his finger, though he's not sure exactly how.

What is clear, however, is that Johnson lost the tip of a finger. When he removed his bloodied glove after the play, the end of his left middle finger came off with it.

"I was more upset I couldn't return to the game than I was about my finger," Johnson told the Associated Press. "It was a 7-7 game at the time and I wanted to be out there with my teammates."

Johnson missed the second half to have surgery. His middle finger is now the same length as his index finger on the same hand.

"I don't know if there is a word I can use to describe the pain," Johnson said. "To have someone chip away at your bone and dig into it to get to the point of where it can be covered up, it's pretty painful the day after."

Lott would know.

The Hall of Fame defender for the San Francisco 49ers had a nasty collision with Dallas Cowboys running back Timmy Newsome in the final regular-season game of the 1985 season. On the play, Lott actually severed a portion of his left pinky, losing it somewhere on the field.

Like Johnson, Lott left the game. Unlike Johnson, Lott returned to the field and helped the 49ers to a wild-card clinching win.

With the hand heavily taped, Lott also played the next week in the playoff opener, a loss to the New York Giants.

Over the winter, the finger would not heal, and Lott was looking at a complicated surgery and a long recovery that would force him to miss at a big chunk of the regular season, if not the entire year.

Instead, Lott chose to have the finger cut off at the knuckle, allowing him to be ready for the regular season. Known as one of the NFL's toughest players, Lott was troubled by the loss of the finger.

Though the pain was the worst he said he's endured in football, Johnson seemed to take it in stride, still hoping to play Sunday.

"It's a different kind of injury, it's something I have to adjust to," Johnson said. "But at the end of the day I've got nine more (fingers)."

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