NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Chris Johnson's an easy-going guy, and his personality and style lead to some interpretations of him that are off-target.
Sports Illustrated’s Alan Shipnuck takes an in-depth look at CJ, the Tennessee Titans' lightning-bolt, lightning-rod running back in this week’s issue.
It’s not online yet, but I can share some highlights from my old school issue that appeared in my mailbox.
Johnson prays every night, a ritual instilled by his “Grandma Sweet.” When he became dad to premature twins in 2012, the focus of those prayed moved to his sons.
His cars include a Maybach sedan.
CJ’s good friend, receiver Nate Washington, says the running back is the most focused he’s ever been and predicts “a monster year.”
Running back coach Sylvester Croom calls CJ “a coaches dream” with a tremendous football IQ.
He’s concentrating at running at a defender when he breaks free instead of heading for the sideline and allowing defenses to pin him with it. We saw that in action on his 58-yard touchdown run against Washington in the preseason opener.
He ran a 4.28 second 40 at the end of his offseason training.
In a story loaded with great detail, the highlight for me is this from offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains:
"People see the exterior and yeah, he’s not the most polished kid in the world, so they misjudge him. But he’s one of my favorite players. Everything is 'yes, sir' or 'no, sir.' I’ve never seen him back talk a coach or get into any kind of confrontation with a teammates. He works hard, does what you ask, shows up every Sunday. I’ve seen him at 10-0 and at 0-6, and he was the same kid.”
People get down on Johnson because of all the runs for no gain or losses last year and because they tire of his personal-goal predictions.
He's a good teammate, a good guy and a good running back, and I expect him to have a good year.
The issue for me remains tied to his 2011 holdout -- the backlash from which Shipnuck covers. Johnson sold himself as a player who shouldn't have the contract restrictions of a running back because he qualified as more, as a "playmaker." The playmaker got his monster contract, and he's hardly been a player who transcends his position since then.
Maybe he will now, with a revamped line and a more running-back friendly system.