ONLINE FOCUS: You have been living in Las Vegas for two years. Describe this crazy city a little to us.
Jacob Johnson: There are two different worlds in Las Vegas. On the one hand, Vegas is what you know. The Strip, the Arts District and Downtown. That's the glitz and the glamour, the lights. But there's also the rest of Las Vegas, where the people really live. There is actually a very relaxed atmosphere there, a suburban atmosphere, there is a lot of nature around.
Popular television commentator Joe Buck has predicted that the Super Bowl in Las Vegas will be chaos and that “something big is going to happen.” What do you think about that?
Johnson: Las Vegas is hectic even on a normal week and especially on a weekend when a lot is happening. A boxing match, a big concert, then the city is already packed and then the energy is a little different. The Super Bowl is a completely different story. The Super Bowl is the largest event in the United States. A little chaos is inevitable.
Las Vegas is the city of gambling, the city of temptation and pure waste. You are Swabian. How does this work?
Johnson: (laughs) You keep doing your thing, no matter where you are. You won't find me in hotels gambling a lot of money. But if you want to spend money, there are plenty of options in Las Vegas.
Johnson on Las Vegas and the Raiders
You had a turbulent season, the Raiders temporarily released you at fullback, then you returned to the practice squad, and finally you returned to the team. How do you review the season?
Johnson: Mixed. The highs were very high, the lows were very low. What got me through this moment was the close bond with my teammates. We were very united between the runners and the sides. This is very valuable. Our coach always says, “Fun comes first.” The fun and love you have for the game and your teammates should always come first. Everything else is secondary.
It was another chaotic season for the Raiders overall. Is this just the nature of the city of Las Vegas?
Johnson: I don't think this has anything to do with Las Vegas. It's just part of the NFL. There are 32 teams, it is a fight to reach the top. When you're up, the next guy comes and pulls you down. The Raiders as an organization are on the rise and are making a lot of good decisions right now. Now they have decided to appoint a good interim coach as head coach. Whether with or without me, I'm excited to see how the team's journey continues.
You're already talking about Antonio Pierce, the new coach. He took over the team mid-season and immediately brought some culture to the locker room. What has changed with Pierce on the team?
Johnson: The first thing the coach said was, “Be yourself!” He wanted each player to bring their authentic energy. And he did not want to set the atmosphere or the pace, but he challenged the players and especially the leaders to be themselves. And that was well received by many colleagues.
Pierce embodies “Raider Nation.” He grew up a fan of the team. Does the club, which has lost a bit of its identity after moving from Oakland to Las Vegas, need someone like that?
Johnson: For me as a player, that's always difficult to judge. The whole thing, how the fans perceive it, is not really in focus for me. What you can definitely feel is how much he loves this team and how much it means to him to coach the Raiders and how much it means to him that we beat our division rivals and beat the team the right way.
What does it mean to be a raider?
Johnson: It's a way of life, an attitude, a mentality, how you enter a game, how you behave and how you treat your teammates. The best incarnation we showed were the two victories against the Chargers and the Chiefs. The division wins at the end of the season. Here everyone has to do their job and get ahead, you have to feel the energy and that is contagious.
Uncertain future for Jakob Johnson
His contract expires at the end of the season. The Raiders have a new offensive lineman in Luke Getsy. Have there been conversations yet or do you have any thoughts on whether the Las Vegas adventure will continue for you?
Johnson: These are all things that are in my agent's inbox. Still I know nothing. If there is news, then there is news.
They say the full-back position is disappearing. But the NFL is constantly changing. The running game is becoming increasingly important again. Are we experiencing the renaissance of the side?
Johnson: I don't know if it's necessarily a rebirth. It was already a problem when I came to the NFL five years ago. The position will not disappear completely. Rather, I believe there will be multiple definitions of this position over time.
Super Bowl and Taylor Swift
In the Super Bowl, here in Las Vegas, the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers face off. A division rival and former local rival of your team. Worst possible pairing from the Raiders' perspective?
Johnson: Yes, for many Raiders fans it's a tough pill to swallow when we have two rivals in town. This hurts especially. Especially because we would have had the opportunity to play here. We could have had a great season and won the cup for the city and Raider Nation. Now we have to look. But that pain can also be motivation and I think it will light the Raiders' fire next season.
Super Bowl, but the number one topic of conversation here is Taylor Swift. Can you understand the hype surrounding her and her relationship with Chiefs star Travis Kelce?
In my opinion, anything that gets people interested in football, whether it's Taylor Swift, Beyoncé or Rihanna, is good. I just hope that people gradually learn the rules of football and don't just look at which stars are in the VIP room.