Pepper on escaping Belichick 'shadows'

February, 4, 2014
Feb 4
9:20
PM ET
Speaking on the “John Murphy Show” on WGR 550, longtime New England Patriots assistant coach Pepper Johnson explained, in part, his move to the Buffalo Bills to serve as their defensive line coach.

“My legs are still shaking a little bit. But I’m excited. I’m so excited,” Johnson said Tuesday on the program. “I always have been a fan of Doug [Marrone] and the Buffalo Bills [and it’s] just getting the opportunity to spread my wings and getting up from under the shadows of Coach Belichick. So it’s a good thing and a good opportunity. ”

Johnson, who got his start in coaching from Belichick, detailed how his responsibilities varied in his 14 years with the Patriots, including his start as almost a personal coach for linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer.

“That’s a long story. That was my project, I had to learn Andy Katzenmoyer,” Johnson said on the program, before detailing how and why he moved from inside linebackers coach, to linebackers coach, to defensive line coach, then back to linebackers.

Johnson, who said his move to Buffalo has already contributed to him learning more about the game by hearing a different terminology among coaches, was asked if he has ambitions to become a defensive coordinator at some point.

“I would love to,” he answered. “In a sense, those 13 years that I played in the NFL, I graduated to calling a lot of the defenses and having the responsibility of running our defense and being an extension of the coach from the sideline. It’s a dream of mine, a goal of mine.”

Johnson was asked what Bills fans should know about the mystique of Belichick.

“He is what you see. That is him. It’s like his mind is constantly going. He’s always thinking, he’s always trying to stay three steps, three months, three years ahead. So lots of times, you can’t really take him personal because he has walked by me plenty of times in the hallway and doesn’t say hello, or with his head down or whatever," he said.

"I know a lot of players, when they first experience Bill, they think, ‘This guy is dry. He doesn’t address anybody. Did I do anything wrong? Is he mad at me?’ I’m like, ‘Trust me, if he’s not talking to you, it’s a good thing. It’s just being Bill.’ But as soon as he stops you in the hall and starts talking to you, that’s when you need to pay attention and see what you’ve been doing wrong in the past or out there on the field, because something is coming.”

Johnson also spoke of his friendship with Belichick and how much he appreciated Belichick's remarks about him, before adding he's "a guy we’re going to beat next year twice."

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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