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How Jaylon Johnson will stay motivated after earning an extension with the Chicago Bears: ‘I want that yellow jacket’

When cornerback Jaylon Johnson considered Monday morning how he will maintain his drive for greatness as he returns to the Chicago Bears on a new contract, he remembered the self-motivation he learned from his father.

As a kid, Johnson watched Johnny Johnson Sr. play flag football and saw his father talking to himself on the field.

“He’d be like, ‘That dude over there thinks I’m soft or I’m weak,‘“ Johnson said. “I’m like, ‘Dad, what the hell you talking about? … Did he really say that?’ He’d be like, ‘I believe he did.’

“The mind is powerful. Any time I go out there and line up against a receiver, I really feel and believe that he don’t think I’m good enough. So every time I go out there, I’m going to punish you because I think I know what you’re thinking.

“That’s kind of like the mental warfare that you’ve got to have to stay motivated. … It’s not hard for me to stay motivated. I can find motivation in a lot of things.”

Johnson’s father was one in a long line of family members and friends who bordered the media interview room at Halas Hall on Monday as Johnson talked about his journey to his first NFL contract extension, a four-year, $76 million deal with $43.8 million guaranteed.

The extension, completed last week, had been a long time coming for Johnson, a 2020 second-round pick who requested a trade at midseason last year because he didn’t feel like he and the team were close enough on contract numbers. The Bears instead kept Johnson, and he closed out a second-team All-Pro season.

The Bears placed the franchise tag on him last week, and two days later they had a deal that Johnson considered a “pretty big” win. Johnson, 24, said the guaranteed money and the fact he’ll be in line to sign another contract before he turns 30 were both important.

“When you sign and you make it official, you just feel a sense of relief and a sense of breakthrough, not only with a contract with the Bears but in life,” Johnson said.

Johnson opened his 22-minute news conference by thanking his father for teaching him self-motivation, his mother strong faith, his brother a thirst for greatness and his girlfriend support and growth.

He also revealed during his opening statement that he sought therapy for a sex addiction during the season.

Johnson said football was the easy part in 2023. Talking to his therapist about his addiction was “harder than anything” and uncomfortable, but that place of vulnerability allowed him to have a breakthrough.

“People are talking about contracts … I wasn’t worried about that,” Johnson said. “I was worried about trying to get myself right because for me it’s bigger than contracts. Being who I need to be as a man, who I need to be as a father, as a partner, as a future husband, that’s more important.

“That’s something that lasts way longer than this podium, lasts way longer than this platform. So just looking myself in the mirror and knowing who I want to be, that was more important than contracts, contracts, contracts, football, football, football.”

Johnson said he wanted to share his experience publicly because he knows he’s not the only one facing such an addiction, and as a football player given a weekly platform during the season, he wanted people to know “it’s OK to not be perfect.”

“We are human too. We go through things,” Johnson said. “Everybody goes through things, but I feel like people feel like you’ve got to put a mask on, you’ve got to cover it up.

“No, it’s OK to go through things, it’s OK to seek help, it’s OK to be vulnerable. I feel like even through my journey with God, his light shines when you’re in the dark.”

While Johnson was working through his addiction off the field, he was putting together a career season on it.

He had a career-high four interceptions along with 10 passes defended and a forced fumble on the way to his first Pro Bowl selection. He was proudest of his sticky coverage — “I don’t think there was ever anybody open in a game,” he noted — which he tried to balance with being physical in the running game.

As he looked ahead to what’s next, Johnson said he will need to take on a bigger leadership role in the secondary after the Bears cut veteran safety Eddie Jackson last month. He expects the younger players will look to him more often to ask how he sees things.

He wants to cut down on missed opportunities, noting he could have had six or seven interceptions in 2023 if not for some drops. And he wants to produce again for a team he hopes is on the verge of putting together more wins.

“Shoot, I’ve got to do it again,” Johnson said. “Some people think it’s luck. I’ve got to do it three years in a row. I’ve got to do it two years in a row. I know what comes with that.

“I want to be able to have that yellow (Hall of Fame) jacket. I want to be the best 33 to wear the jersey. I have those types of goals and aspirations. I know that with things like that, to get a yellow jacket, you have to be consistently great. That’s my goal is to consistently be great.”

The contract won’t change that.