Larry Johnson: From Pampered Prima Donna to Grizzled Veteran
Larry Johnson should not be lacking motivation this year. The Chiefs running back appears to have, at least for the moment, avoided the chopping block that is now under the hands of Scott Pioli.
For weeks, it was speculated that Johnson would be either traded or released following a grievance filed by the Chiefs over Johnson's contract secondary to a suspension last season.
This saga followed an offseason verbal request from Johnson requesting a trade or release from the Chiefs.
It seemed as if a divorce was inevitable. Still, Johnson remains and has been surprisingly cooperative heading in to this season.
Johnson's six-year tenure in Kansas City has been tumultuous to say the least.
From taking off the diapers to play for Head Coach Dick Vermeil, to being green with envy over Priest Holmes, Johnson has done little to endear himself to the Chiefs faithful.
The past two seasons for Johnson have been frustrating for him I'm sure, and disappointing for the Chiefs and their fans.
Johnson played in only eight contests in 2007, finishing the year on injured reserve because of a right foot injury. He finished the season with only 559 yards, three touchdowns, and a 3.5 ypc average.
In 2008, LJ played in 12 games, being inactive for three games and suspended another. He rushed for 874 yards, five touchdowns and a 4.5 ypc average. At times, Johnson appeared to be back, at times he was pouting on the sidelines.
To make matters worse, Johnson has repeatedly found trouble off the field, spending too much time in night clubs, and alienating teammates and fans.
The Chiefs are hoping Larry and his immaturity's are a thing of the past. Johnson has been present at offseason workouts and camps and appears to have his heart, and hopefully his head, in the right place heading in to 2009. That could mean a return to elite status for the former pro-bowler.
The Chiefs need LJ to contribute on the field and produce wins instead of providing more headaches for the front office.
In the consecutive seasons of 2005-2006, Johnson rushed for more than 1700 yards, had 17 and 20 rushing touchdowns respectively, and averaged nearly five yards a carry.
While 30 years old, and plenty of NFL carries to boot, I for one think LJ still has some gas in the tank. I don't particularly care for the person, but I'm hoping I like the football player wearing No. 27 this season.
It's time for Larry Johnson to grow up and learns what it truly means to be a man. I've admired his knowledge and respect for the history of the NFL. Now, it's time he participates in the great history of the Chiefs, and forgets about his own personal agenda.
The Chiefs have an improved offensive line, a new coaching staff, a new quarterback and an improved, though still unimpressive receiving unit. Now the Chiefs need a productive running game through Larry Johnson, Jamaal Charles, and Kolby Smith.
While being far from a fan favorite, one thing is sure, the Chiefs desperately need Johnson to be successful. If Johnson comes close to 250 carries, 1200 yards, and 10 touchdowns, the Chiefs will stay in contention in the AFC West.
If Johnson decides to put the pampers back on, the Chiefs will not only have a disgruntled running back, they'll have the dubious distinction of back to back seasons with fewer than six wins.
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