Johnson: Jets likely to be cautious

Updated: May 22, 2014, 6:05 PM ET
By Kieran Darcy | ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets' new star running back still isn't ready to join his teammates on the field.

Chris Johnson says his surgically repaired right knee is "feeling good" and "getting better." But when asked Thursday whether he will participate in any of the Jets' OTA offseason workouts, Johnson said, "Probably not."

[+] EnlargeChris Johnson
AP Photo/Bill KostrounChris Johnson says his knee is "feeling good," but the Jets are likely to have him rehab during OTAs so he'll be ready for training camp.

"I think they're gonna hold me out of OTAs and just let me continue to rehab until I get 100 percent," Johnson said at the Jets' first player availability of the offseason. "Take it slow, since I have time on my side, and just be ready for [training] camp."

Johnson underwent surgery in late January to repair a torn meniscus, an injury he played through last season. He said he just began doing straight-ahead running this week, and will continue to rehab when the team's OTAs begin next week.

The Jets signed Johnson to a two-year, $8 million contract (plus $1 million in incentives) in mid-April. They finished sixth in the NFL in rushing last season and retained all of their running backs from a year ago, but obviously viewed Johnson as an upgrade at the position.

It remains to be seen how the Jets will split the playing time and carries among the running backs.

"I'm not sure right now," Johnson said. "I've just been in rehab, so I haven't really been with the team or with the offense. Not sure how they're gonna use us."

Johnson is accustomed to a heavy workload, averaging 290 carries per season in his six years with the Tennessee Titans. But he doesn't sound concerned about potentially sharing the load in New York.

"I know the situation coming in, and we're just gonna work together, and everybody's goal is to put wins on the board," Johnson said. "We're not really worried about the carries, or who's gonna play this down, that down -- we're just all about one focus, and that's winning."

Chris Ivory, who led the Jets in rushing last season with 833 yards, called signing Johnson "a good move," said he's not concerned about the division of labor, and wasn't surprised by the Jets' decision.

"Why would it surprise me?" Ivory said. "It's just another guy on the team with great talent, and somebody that can add diversity to the team, and just give us another weapon, added explosiveness to what we have."

Johnson has rushed for at least 1,000 yards in each of his six professional seasons, the longest active streak in the NFL. He rushed for more than 2,000 yards in 2009 but only 1,077 in 2013, averaging a career-low 3.9 yards per carry -- leading some to believe he's on the decline after so many carries early in his career.

The Titans released him in early April, in part because of his high salary (he was scheduled to make $8 million with Tennessee next season), after being unable to complete a trade for him. But the 28-year-old believes he still has plenty of good football left in him plus some extra motivation heading into 2014.

"Any time a player gets released from a team they've been with so long, he always wants to go out there and prove that team wrong for letting him go," Johnson said. "[It's] something else to put a chip on your shoulder and help you work hard."

The Jets play the Titans in Nashville, Tennessee,  on Sunday, Dec. 14 -- a date Johnson already is looking forward to.

"Oh yeah, most definitely," Johnson said, chuckling. "I can't wait for that game."

Kieran Darcy is an ESPNNewYork.com staff writer. He joined ESPN in August 2000 after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, where he played four years of JV basketball.
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