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Thursday, February 20, 2014
Messages on Locker, CJ quite different

By Paul Kuharsky

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- One by one, they have faced the same questions.

One by one, they have given similar answers.

When the topic is Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans president and CEO Tommy Smith, general manager Ruston Webster and coach Ken Whisenhunt talk enthusiastically and optimistically.

Johnson
Locker
When the topic is Chris Johnson, Smith, Webster and Whisenhunt are far more reserved, talking about how a decision has yet to be made, and not offering so much as a lukewarm endorsement.

I know the trio in power to varying degrees. But none of them has anything on his resume that I am familiar with to suggest he doesn't tell the truth.

Given that, I'm not finding it difficult to interpret things.

Money is not an issue with Locker this season. He’s got a cap hit of a little more than $4 million and a salary of $2.091 million, which is guaranteed. He remains an injury-prone unknown, but they want to give him every chance, and they don’t have a good alternative on the roster at this time.

Money is a huge issue with Johnson, who collected $10 million in each of the past two years and is scheduled to make $8 million more this year. That’s a high price for a self-proclaimed playmaker who averaged 3.9 yards a carry and maxed out with a 30-yard run in 2013. He has spent more time publicly assessing the offensive line and his coaches than being accountable himself.

If he’s cut, it won’t necessarily be in line with the start of the new league year on March 11. Per Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean, Thursday morning at the combine Webster said "we can be as patient as we want to be" regarding a decision on Johnson.

Said Whisenhunt of CJ: “He practiced every day from what I’ve seen when you look at the records from last year, and he played in a lot of games, and he’s been a good football player.”

That, ladies and gentlemen, is not a coach doing a cartwheel about a player he’s inherited.

The Titans aren’t going to come right out and tell us much on hot-button issues when they don’t have to. Maybe they wait to make a move with CJ until they draft his replacement.

If the plan is to keep him and have him on the field in 2014, they’re doing him quite a disservice with their tepid answers. But that is not what they are doing. They are getting Johnson, his agent and his fans ready for a divorce.

They are endorsing Locker and avoiding saying anything substantive about Johnson.

Oftentimes I advise we shouldn’t jump to conclusions.

Here I am far more inclined to say, jump away.