Chris Johnson says he hasn't lost speed
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The man nicknamed "CJ2K" has the $53 million contract extension he wanted.
Now Titans running back Chris Johnson is off to the worst start of his career with fans booing and so upset they break down what yards he has gained by dollars earned to the inch.
They're not alone.
Johnson said Wednesday he's as frustrated as he's ever been by the worst start of his NFL career.
People should worry about me losing burst once I get in the open field and somebody catching me.” -- Titans RB Chris Johnson
on people asking if he's lost speed
"It's hard, but I know I'm out here working and getting better every week I'm working," Johnson said. "Like people on the outside who really don't know, who don't come in here and watch the film how we watch, they really don't know what's really going on.
"But just me being the guy that I am and me holding out and me getting a big contract, of course they're going to point the finger at me and say I'm the guy. So that's just something that comes along with it."
Especially after Johnson missed the entire preseason before signing that new deal.
Johnson eased off a comment after last week's 41-7 loss to Houston that he isn't the issue with a run game last in the NFL.
But he keeps saying he's running and working the way he always has even though he has just 268 yards through six games. His 2.9-yard average per carry is well under his 4.3-yard average of last season, which was the lowest through his first three seasons.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson called Johnson on Wednesday, telling him to remain confident. Johnson says he's trying to do that because he's not doing anything differently from the previous three years when no one in the NFL ran for more yards than he did.
Johnson also says he hasn't lost any speed in his fourth year.
"People should worry about me losing burst once I get in the open field and somebody catching me ...," Johnson said. "I don't feel I've been in the open field enough times for anybody to question my burst or anything like that."
Titans coach Mike Munchak agrees on that point.
"We're not rushing the way we were, then it hasn't looked the same that way as far as his speed. I'm sure his speed is fine," Munchak said. "I don't think it's his speed why we're not rushing for more yards."
Johnson has rushed for 100 yards only once this season when he ran for 101 yards on 23 carries in a 31-13 win at Cleveland on Oct. 2. He was held to 51 yards in a 38-17 loss at Pittsburgh and then ground to a near halt with a mere 18 yards on 10 carries in last week's 41-7 loss to the Texans. Johnson has only one rushing touchdown.
The Titans (3-3) contend that the running problems remain the same -- one player making a mistake on each play. Left guard Leroy Harris said they know it starts with the linemen up front.
"We're just seeing everybody's taking a turn ... right now it's killing us," Harris said. "Usually, that's the guy who makes the play."
Some think Johnson is shying away from contact. He has handled the ball a lot in the past two seasons in earning a contract extension with $30 million guaranteed. He had 358 rushes with 50 catches when running for 2,006 yards in 2009 and 316 carries for 1,364 yards with 44 receptions in 2010.
The Titans lined him up wide several times in last week's 41-7 loss to Houston, and Johnson was tackled almost immediately when he appeared to hesitate after a 17-yard catch.
Asked about that tackle Wednesday, Johnson said he didn't recall the play.
Other critics think the man who clocked the fastest electronic time at the NFL combine when he ran a 4.24-second 40-yard dash in 2008 seems either to have lost or step or dances too long looking for a hole.
Johnson's longest run this year is 25 yards, a drop-off for the man with nine runs of 50 yards or longer in his career, but none since the 2010 season opener.
Colts coach Jim Caldwell gets the next shot at making sure Johnson doesn't break out over his defense when Indianapolis (0-7) visits Sunday, and the coach said he sees a running back who is as explosive as ever.
"He is one of those guys that certainly if he just gets a crack he can take it to the house," Caldwell said. "He has that speed and he certainly has deceptive power and obviously he can certainly catch it out of the backfield as well, I think he is their second leading receiver at this point. I see a dangerous, dangerous guy that still looks as fast and fresh as he always has."
Munchak is breaking the season down to a fresh start with the goal getting Johnson 1,000 yards rushing in the remaining 10 games.
"We know we can't be satisfied with what's gone on and we can't continue that if we're going to win," Munchak said.
NotesQB Matt Hasselbeck was limited Wednesday in practice with a bruised thumb on his right, throwing hand. He hit the hand on a helmet in the loss to Houston. Rookie Jake Locker took most of the work with the first-team offense, but Hasselbeck is expected to practice fully Thursday. DE William Hayes (back), S Chris Hope (left forearm) and LB Colin McCarthy (hamstring) did not practice. TE Craig Stevens (rib) was limited.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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