Chiefs’ Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali return with championship goals

Jan. 9, 2011; Kansas City, MO; Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali (91) celebrates with Derrick Johnson (56) after recovering a fumble against the Baltimore Ravens at Arrowhead Stadium. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
Jan. 9, 2011; Kansas City, MO; Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali (91) celebrates with Derrick Johnson (56) after recovering a fumble against the Baltimore Ravens at Arrowhead Stadium. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Two of the Chiefs’ longest-tenured players are back with a specific mission in mind.

Individual accomplishments don’t matter to inside linebacker Derrick Johnson and outside linebacker Tamba Hali, both of whom signed three-year contracts to stay in Kansas City before the start of free agency.

Instead, the pair has a bigger vision on how they want their respective careers to end, regardless of role at this stage of their respective careers.

“Our main goal here is to win the Lombardi Trophy and risking injury trying to do more than is needed, it’s not going to help our team,” Hali said Thursday during a conference call with Chiefs beat writers. “Right now, it’s my focus, and I’m sure Derrick’s focus, we’re really focused on our team as a whole and not what we can do individually.”

The 33-year-old Johnson, who joined the Chiefs in 2005 as a first-round pick out of Texas, agreed emphatically during his conference call.

“My goal is to win a Lombardi Trophy, it’s to have that ring on my finger,” Johnson said. “Signing this three-year deal, it just assures that I can help this team win. That’s all I want to do, is be a part of this great legacy that’s about to go on now.”

The 32-year-old Hali, who joined the Chiefs in 2006 as a first-round selection out of Penn State, said his love for the game hasn’t diminished. He added he likes proving to himself and to others he remains one of the league’s top pass rushers.

But ultimately his return comes down to the chance to help the Chiefs win it all.

“Those things still drive me to be in the game and the top of the list is to win a Super Bowl,” Hali said. “That’s the biggest drive. If we can get that done, it’d be nice to do it again and again.”

Hali and Johnson could have at least three shots to accomplish their mission if they play out the duration of their new contracts.

It is tough to argue against Kansas City appearing on the cusp of making that run and the past three seasons offer evidence.

Since head coach Andy Reid arrived in 2013, the Chiefs have compiled a 31-17 record and made the postseason twice.

The 2015 season saw the Chiefs reel off an NFL-record 10 straight wins to overcome a dismal 1-5 start and finish 11-5. The Chiefs advanced to the Divisional Round of the playoffs before falling to the New England Patriots.

The experience over the last three seasons has Johnson very confident.

“I’ve been in the NFL 11 years, and, don’t get me wrong, every year is optimistic because that’s the way you go into the year,” Johnson said. “But from what we’ve been building here since Andy’s been here, it’s clear as day that we’re close, that we’re really close.”

There are other examples to reinforce Johnson’s enthusiasm.

The Chiefs in 2014 defeated the Patriots and in 2015 beat the Denver Broncos during the regular season.

And the common denominator should be clear – the Patriots and Broncos went on to win the Super Bowl during those seasons.

“Watching Denver do their deal lets you know the Chiefs can do the same thing because, I mean, the least two years, we’ve beaten the Super Bowl champions,” Johnson said. “I guess at the end of the day, you still got to beat them at the right time, but we’ll be right in the thick of it.”

Championship goals aside, the re-signings of Johnson and Hali allows an opportunity for two friends, both of whom have lockers in close proximity to another, to potentially finish their respective decorated careers together.

If and when the day comes, it will carry special meaning.

“Man, that means a lot,” Johnson said. “Tamba – after I congratulated him on his deal as soon as I heard about it – I called him and I was like, ‘Man, congratulations.’

“I was probably happier than he was. As soon as I said that, he said, ‘D.J., you got to get it done, buddy. You got to, you can’t leave.’ It was one of those old-friend moments and I told him whatever I have to do, we’ll work together to get this done. But first he was a little worried because it was getting down to the wire, but the old man hasn’t left him yet.”