After a year away, Pepper Johnson ready for a return to the sidelines

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(Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Pepper Johnson wants back in.

The former linebackers and defensive line coach for 14 seasons with the Patriots, who was out of the NFL all last season, is looking to return to the sidelines. Whether it’s small college, big college, or the pros, he’s making his case to come back to the sport he loves.

“I have a passion for football,” he told “I would love to get back into the game to continue my passion, either as a head coach or defensive coordinator.”

Johnson has been serving as something of a personal coach for young defensive linemen over the last year, tutoring them in the finer points of the game. But now, he wants to get back on a staff as a full-timer somewhere.

“I’m ready,” he said.

Johnson and the Patriots were synonymous for more than a decade. The former Giants linebacker joined Bill Belichick’s staff after Belichick was hired as the head coach in New England in 2000, and Johnson served as the linebackers and defensive line coach for 14 seasons. Along the way, he carved out a niche as a trusted assistant, one who earned the respect of players and coaches for his hard work and dedication. The fact that he was the only member of the Patriots’ coaching staff who played at a high level probably didn’t hurt either.

(In practice, Johnson ran the New England scout team, nicknamed "The Dirty Show,"