Cal’s defense was dealt a major blow on Saturday as head coach Justin Wilcox announced that defensive end Brett Johnson will miss the entire 2022 season with a lower-body injury sustained during the team’s practice on Thursday.

It’ll be a second straight year on the shelf for the talented defensive lineman. He missed the entire 2021 campaign after a car accident last March left him with a broken hip and forced him to have surgery. Cal says the new injury is unrelated.

“Brett is one of the toughest and most dedicated football players I have ever been around,” Wilcox said in a release. “Although this is a difficult situation for him, I am confident that he will return to the field in 2023. He has the unwavering support of all his coaches, teammates, and everyone in our football program. It is important for us to rally around each other as a team and respond positively to this adversity.”

Johnson played in each of Cal’s 17 games during his first two seasons in the program, appearing in all 13 games in 2019 as a true freshman and then starting each of the team’s four games during the COVID-shortened 2020 season. He has 46 career tackles, six tackles for loss, and three sacks.

He was voted as a preseason all-conference second-team selection ahead of the new year. Many around the Golden Bears program felt he might be the team’s best all-around player.

The injury diagnosis is devastating considering what Johnson has gone through to return to the football field. Doctors reportedly told him after his car accident last year that he might not even walk normally after surgery, let alone play football again. But Johnson was back on the field for spring practices and hoping

“He’s as tough an individual as I’ve been around, on the football field, physically, and mentally,” Wilcox told reporters Saturday afternoon. “Brett will be back and he’ll be at full strength but it’ll be some time from now.”

Cal begins its season next Saturday at home against UC Davis. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. PT.