Sunday, September 14, 2008
Chiefs RB Johnson unhappy with reduced role in offense
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Early in the third quarter, Larry Johnson rumbled up the middle for a 2-yard gain, his 12th carry against the Oakland Raiders.
It turned out to be Johnson's last -- and he didn't like it.
Unhappy with his role in a dismal offense, Johnson lashed out at Kansas City's coaching staff and front office Sunday, saying he didn't see himself being a part of the team in the future.
"Something's going on -- I just don't know what it is," Johnson said after a 23-8 loss to Oakland in the Chiefs' home opener. "I'm going to sit down and talk with someone."
A two-time Pro Bowler, Johnson joined Eric Dickerson and Terrell Davis as the only players to rush for over 1,750 yards in consecutive seasons. He's third on Kansas City's all-time rushing list in just his sixth season and has been known as a workhorse back, owning Chiefs records for carries in a season (416) and a game (39 in 2006).
Once a star, Johnson has turned into a disgruntled bit player for a struggling franchise.
He played just seven games last season due to a foot injury and enhanced his reputation for being sullen and brooding by questioning the coaching staff's decisions.
Johnson had a relatively successful start to this season, running for a team-high 74 yards on 22 carries in a hard-fought 17-10 road loss to the defending AFC champion New England Patriots.
He didn't have nearly the same impact against the Raiders, finishing with 22 yards for a 1.8 per-carry average, and complained about it afterward.
"I've been here long enough to know that if I'm not getting the ball, then I'm tired," he said. "If I'm not tired and I'm not getting the ball, something's going on and I've got to deal with it."
Maybe Johnson just isn't looking at the big picture.
The Chiefs were once a dominating running team, pounding opponents with huge offensive linemen and talented running backs like Johnson, Priest Holmes and Christian Okoye.
Kansas City isn't that team anymore, those linemen replaced by inexperienced youngsters, the running game nearly nonexistent. The Chiefs managed just 1,248 yards rushing a year ago -- 541 less than Johnson had in 2006 -- and have averaged a paltry 3.41 yards on 46 carries this season.
The Raiders all but shut down Kansas City's running game Sunday, holding the Chiefs to 55 yards on 19 carries -- 15 of that on a rumbling scramble by quarterback Damon Huard.
Trailing 13-0 midway through the third quarter, Kansas City abandoned its running game, forced into a passing offense to make up the ground.
"We felt coming into the game that we'd have some shots, some runs that we felt we'd be able to run and we didn't do it," Chiefs coach Herm Edwards said.
Johnson agreed the game plan had to change late because of the deficit. He just didn't like the way the Chiefs got into that position, particularly with him not getting the ball.
"It just didn't happen for me today because of personnel changes," he said. "I've always needed 20-30 carries, that's always been me. It's tough not being able to get into a rhythm."
It was enough for Johnson to say he doesn't expect to be a part of the Chiefs' future.
"Right now, I don't see it," he said. "I'm going to do my part, what I can do right now and hopefully we can get back on track next week."