Time with Tank

Updated: 10:25 p.m.

Terry Johnson says how he got the name "Tank" is well documented.  And if you don't know, "you'll see" when he plays.

The Bengals see Johnson for the first time as a member of their defensive line rotation Tuesday when he arrives at Paul Brown Stadium for his first offseason workout and in a phone interview Friday evening he talked more about his new teammates than himself.

He sees his role on passing downs as a disruptor who can also open up things for fellow tackle Domata Peko, as well as ends Robert Geathers and Antwan Odom.

"I pride myself on penetration and quickness and explosion," said Johnson, relishing the move as a backup nose tackle in the Cowboys 3-4 to an inside pass rusher in the Bengals 4-3. "In the 4-3, there's a little more room to wiggle. It's all about being disruptive and making guys better. Geathers, Odom, Peko and all those guys that fly around out there. Sacks are great, but the main idea is to get pressure and disrupt the quarterback. Take two guys with you and open it up for somebody else."

Johnson says he doesn't know his new mates well, but he got good vibes from them during his visit last week and from film.

"I'm in a defense I'm comfortable with and I'm playing for coaches I'm comfortable with," he said. "We've got a group of some good young ball players and I think these guys are itching for success. I believe we're close to being a very dominant defense after being No. 12 last year.

"We've got a lot of young guys and I like that. I spent some time in the weight room with them and it's a close-knit group. Being on very successful teams and not very successful teams, the intangibles are so important."

The 6-3, 300-pound Johnson likes playing in a 4-3 because he can play up-tempo and not worry about two-gapping.

"A 3-4 slows you down. In the 4-3, there is only one way to go and that's to go north," Johnson said. "It was a square peg in a round hole sort of thing. I'm definitely more comfortable in a 4-3, but I'm glad I got a chance to play in the 3-4. It made me a better player. I learned more about the game and if I had to I could do it again."

At 27 and heading into his sixth season with his third team, Johnson is a guy head coach Marvin Lewis and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer believe can add some much needed experience to a young group of tackles where the 24-year-old Peko had been the grizzled veteran.

"When you've been through adverse situations and come out the other end, that's something you can help guys with," he said. "I've been through a lot and I think I can bring some experience."

Johnson smoothly took on the "baggage" question. It has been two years since the last of his legal problems in Chicago (he spent two months in jail for violation of probation stemming from gun charges and served an eight-game suspension from the NFL in 2007), but he knows it will follow him no matter what.

"I think as you get further and further away from it, the less you think about it. Not that it will ever leave me because it did happen, but the further away it is, the more you move on," Johnson said. "Having a family that I love and going through some maturation, I think we all do that. I'm sure you're not doing the same things now that you were doing when you were 22."

Zimmer asked Johnson to phone up his old players to find out about him and if he didn't like what he heard, "Please, don't come," Zimmer told him.

Johnson says he not only called them, he liked what he heard.

"I found out he's passionate about his defense," Johnson said. "No one is immune to getting yelled at. If you do what he asks you to do, things will be fine. His thing is we all grow and work together."

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