If Houston Texans rookie cornerback Lonnie Johnson Jr. wanted to make an impression during practice Monday, then mission accomplished.
During an inter-squad session with Green Bay, Johnson, a second-round draft pick, reportedly leveled Jace Sternberger with a hit that separated the Packers’ rookie tight end from his helmet.
After the hit, Johnson stood over Sternberger and flexed, prompting Packers players to rush to confront Johnson on the field.
The practice was designated as a non-tackling session.
Johnson posted a picture of the aftermath of the hit on Instagram Monday evening.
Rookie ‘head to the showers’ after big practice hit
Johnson got flagged for the hit and returned to the field for just one special teams rep after the play according to Packers News.
Texans head coach Bill O’Brien told reporters that, “It was time for Lonnie to head to the showers,” while calling the hit “not a big deal.”
Sternberger’s teammates begged to differ.
Graham: ‘Absolutely ridiculous’
Packers tight end Jimmy Graham chided Johnson for bringing the “hit stick” to a practice session, calling the play “ridiculous”
"Obviously he's a rookie, and he needs to know you can't be hitting guys live in practice,” Graham said. “That's absolutely ridiculous. And we're not going to stand for that here, obviously.
“I know his older guys over there are going to be on him about it because my young guy's just running through a zone, obviously. Just run by him. We know you're going to blow him up in a game. This isn't a game.”
Graham added that Johnson needs to “chill out.”
Adams: ‘Be a coward’
Green Bay receiver Davante Adams called Johnson’s hit the act of a coward and promised consequences.
“Be a coward when you do stuff like that in practice, it's not a good look,” Adams said. “We take care of each other up here. I don't know how they practice, I don't know what they do over there, but there's consequences for stuff like that.”
Adams also noted that a hit like that is “bound to happen” in joint practices with rookies eager to impress and not facing penalties of fines or suspensions as players do in game situations.
Sternberger remained calm
Sternberger was evaluated for a concussion and eventually returned to practice, claiming he “got the wind knocked out of me.”
He chalked the play up to “just football” while noting he wasn’t aware in the moment that Johnson was flexing on him.
Johnson: ‘Not trying to hurt anybody’
Johnson did not talk with reporters, opting instead to address the issue on Twitter.
Not trying to hurt nobody just wanna be great 🙏🏾‼️ https://t.co/tv734EE9TH— Lonnie Johnson jr. (@Lonnie30johnson) August 5, 2019
Johnson warned prior to second practice, game
The two sides will meet for another joint practice on Tuesday before squaring off for their preseason debuts Thursday night.
Packers right guard Billy Turner noted that while head coach Matt LaFluer has a zero-tolerance policy for fighting in practice, he was supportive of his players standing up for a teammate.
“He was clear with us, and we were clear with him,” Turner said. “If they started taking shots on our players, then we’re not just going to stand there. We’re not punks by any means, and that’s what happened. So we were men of our word, just like he was a man of his word.”
He also had a message for Johnson regarding Tuesday’s practice.
“Keep your head on a swivel. Strap up and be ready to go again.”
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