Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson used to be one of the top backs in the league — used to be, as in “is not anymore.”
Nobody seems to have informed Johnson of his regression to the mean, however, and the well-compensated former star says he’s unwilling to let his declining output on the field be reflected in his paycheck.
“No way,” Johnson told The Tennessean Thursday when asked if he’d take a pay cut to stay with the middling Titans, who are 6-9 heading into Sunday’s season finale against the Texans. “I don’t feel like it’s all my fault. It’s a team effort.”
His fault or not, it’s been a steady fall from the top over the last few years for Johnson, who led the NFL in 2009 with 2,006 rushing yards, but saw that number drop to 1,364 in 2010 and 1,047 in 2011 before a slight resurgence with 1,243 yards last season.
This year has been Johnson’s worst as a pro, and if he can’t pick up 50 yards against Houston — he’s been held under 50 yards in seven of 15 games this year — he’ll miss the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career.
But Johnson — who pocketed $10 million this year and is scheduled to fetch $8 million the next two seasons and $7 million in 2016 — isn’t willing to place the blame for his own struggles on himself.
“I know I am way better than trying to get 1,000 yards in the last game,” Johnson told The Tennessean.
“But looking at the situation, it is a whole bunch of things that go into it. So I don’t get too down on myself. I know when I get the ball and put in the right situation I can still do the same things.”
And if that “right situation” turns out to be with another team, the 28-year-old Johnson and his inflated sense of self-worth to be fine with that.
“I don’t think I’ll be out of work long,” he told the paper. “There’s nothing I can do about it. At the end of the day I’ve had a great time here and I appreciate all they have done for me. … I think it would be sad on both parts, but being in this league for so long I understand there is a business side of it.”