Wednesday, September 22, 2004
Vermeil to Johnson: 'Take the diapers off'
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Larry Johnson reacted sharply to Dick
Vermeil's comments that the seldom used Chiefs running back "take
the diapers off" if he plays this week in place of injured Priest Holmes.
Johnson, a first-round draft pick out of Penn State, might be
pressed into action Sunday against Houston if Holmes is still
hobbled by a sore ankle. He has expressed his unhappiness over not
playing, and on Wednesday, dismissed the suggestion that Vermeil
was trying to motivate him with comments made in his weekly news
"I don't need no motivation," Johnson said. "If I need
motivation, I'll talk to my father. I don't need another grown man
telling me I need to take the diapers off.
"That's not how I've been raised, and I don't need no
motivation from anybody. I'm self-motivated because my father
taught me to be that way."
Johnson has played sparingly behind Holmes, even dropping to
third team behind Derrick Blaylock. His father, Larry Johnson Sr.,
is defensive line coach at Penn State.
"I don't really listen to that kind of stuff," the younger
Johnson said of Vermeil's comments. "If the man can't say
something in my face, that's how I feel. It don't mean nothing to
Vermeil has criticized Johnson in the past for his casual
approach toward preparation, and made the remark when asked about
the possibility of Holmes missing Sunday's game.
Vermeil, whose 0-2 team has already been beset by distractions
and injuries, said the remark "just popped into my scrambled
"He's got some pressure on him now because if Priest doesn't
play, he's going to be carrying a load, and it's a lot of
responsibility that so far he has a way to go to prove he can
handle it," Vermeil said. "And I'm looking forward to giving him
the opportunity if Priest can't play."
Although the comment was made in jest, "in a way, there's a
little truth to it," Vermeil said.
"I like Larry and I see his talent. And I've spent more time
with Larry Johnson than all my roster combined in the last two
years, and so has everybody else in this building. And sooner or
later he's going to recognize that," Vermeil said.
Vermeil made it clear the day Johnson was drafted that he would
have preferred to take a defensive player. But Holmes was coming
off hip surgery, and the organization decided it needed insurance
at running back.
Last season, Johnson had 20 carries for 85 yards, including a
15-yard touchdown run.
"Yes, it's a little frustrating when they bring you here and
they can't tell you whether you're going to play or you're not
going to play," Johnson said. "That's just how I feel. By no
means I'm going to stop going hard here and going hard every day in
practice. It's just something that's frustrating right now and
would be to anybody who's in my position."
Vermeil said he understands Johnson's frustration.
"The kid wants to play football badly. He loves to play,"
Vermeil said. "But in this league they just don't automatically
retire Priest Holmes."
"He has all the talent in the world," Vermeil said of Johnson,
"and sooner or later, he'll have his opportunity to take advantage
Asked if the statement would impact his relationship with the
coach, Johnson said, "It affects a lot of things.
"But that's between to him and me to figure that out. There's a
lot of things going on that I want to address but I want to wait to
the right time for me to do that."