Former Tennessee star linebacker A.J. Johnson signed with the Denver Broncos on Monday, less than three weeks after his acquittal on rape charges dating to 2014.
Johnson and a former Vols teammate, Michael Williams, were indicted on aggravated rape charges after a woman alleged they raped her during a party at Johnson’s apartment in November 2014. The pair were suspended for the final three games of that season. Johnson has not played since then, and the NFL rescinded his invitation to the 2015 scouting combine.
But after being acquitted on all counts on July 27, the three-time All-SEC selection is ready to resume playing football — Williams was also acquitted.
The Broncos contacted Johnson on Saturday, and he was a limited participant in Monday’s practice.
“It’s a blessing to be a part of the team,” Johnson said (via the Denver Post). “I’m excited to get out here and start working my tail off.”
Despite the three-plus year layoff from football, Johnson said he worked out during his layoff, with a routine that included mixed martial arts.
Broncos coach Vance Joseph told reporters after Monday’s practice everyone the Broncos talked to about Johnson praised him.
“It was a three-year legal battle for this young man. He was cleared in June,” Joseph said. “He wants to play football again. We talked to a lot of his coaches … everyone spoke highly of him, so we’ll see … we’ll see how he fits in.”
Joseph likewise had good things to say about the skill set Johnson brings to the Broncos’ defense.
“He’s got great size, he can run and he’s a very, very intelligent player,” Joseph said. “He’s definitely a great prospect; at the time, he was a combine guy and draftable player.”