Titans’ Johnson: Future sort of out of his hands
Chris Johnson needs only 50 yards to reach 1,000 yards for a
sixth straight season, which would put the Titans running back in
He wants that milestone Sunday in what might be his last game in
a Tennessee uniform because of his very pricey contract and
Johnson is due $8 million in 2014, part of $29 million due over
the next three seasons. Yet Johnson needs what would be his
second-best performance this season when he plays Houston to avoid
the worst rushing year of his career. The running back said
Thursday he hasn’t thought about whether Sunday will be his final
game with the Titans.
”It’s sort of something out of my hands, nothing I can really
do about that,” Johnson said. ”But you know at the end of the day
I’ve had a great time here, and I appreciate all they have done for
me. At the end of the day, it’s nothing that I’m really thinking
about, just trying to get a victory on Sunday.”
Johnson later told The Tennessean he won’t consider a pay cut.
Speaking to other reporters, Johnson said he loves Tennessee and
thinks it would be sad if he’s playing elsewhere next season.
”From being in this league so long I have come to understand
it’s a business side of this …” Johnson said. ”I don’t think
I’ll be out of work long.”
Johnson currently has 950 yards rushing with a 3.8-yard per
carry average that also is the lowest of his career. With 50 yards
against the Texans, he would become only the sixth running back in
NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in each of his first six
seasons joining Barry Sanders, Curtis Martin, LaDanian Tomlinson,
Eric Dickerson and Corey Dillon.
A dip in some of Johnson’s numbers was expected because the
Titans signed Shonn Greene to split the work. Johnson said the run
game struggled early with mental mistakes with the Titans abandoned
the run in other games.
Johnson has topped 100 yards only once this season with 150
yards Nov. 3 in a win at St. Louis, and he ran for 90 yards in last
week’s win at Jacksonville with Greene running for 91. Johnson said
the coaches stuck to the game plan, and it worked. He does have
four touchdown receptions, a career-best.
Some fans have been upset with Johnson since he signed his $53.5
million deal on Sept. 2, 2011. His production slipped to 1,047 that
season, though he rebounded by running for 1,243 yards in 2012.
Texans interim coach Wade Phillips still sees Johnson as an
offensive threat defenses have to plan around.
”He still has that great explosion,” Philips said. ”There are
not many players that can go 80 or 90 yards in one play for a
touchdown, and he’s one of them.”
Titans coach Mike Munchak said Johnson’s durability is taken for
granted as a 5-foot-11, 203-pound running back. Johnson has never
missed a game and sat out his first practice this year last week to
rest a sore knee.
”I think that’s more of an accomplishment because that means he
shows up every Sunday every year to do his job,” Munchak said.
”That’s something to be proud of as a running back. Do you wish it
was higher? Should it be more per carry? All those things will
always be questioned, but the bottom line is he showed up every
Sunday, played hard, played his best.”
The coach whose own job security still must be decided first
said good players make coaches look really good when asked if he’ll
lobby to keep Johnson around in 2014.
”One step at a time here,” Munchak said.
Notes: RT David Stewart (shoulder), DT Jurrell Casey (right
knee) and LB Zach Brown (illness) did not practice Thursday.
Munchak expects Brown to be available Friday.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker