Titans' Johnson: Future sort of out of his hands

By TERESA M. WALKER - AP Sports Writer
    2013-12-26 16:33

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Chris Johnson needs only 50 yards to reach 1,000 yards for a sixth straight season, which would put the Titans running back in exclusive company.

He wants that milestone Sunday in what might be his last game in a Tennessee uniform because of his very pricey contract and declining production.

Johnson is due $8 million in 2014, part of $29 million due over the next three seasons. Yet Johnson needs what would be his second-best performance this season when he plays Houston to avoid the worst rushing year of his career. The running back said Thursday he hasn't thought about whether Sunday will be his final game with the Titans.

''It's sort of something out of my hands, nothing I can really do about that,'' Johnson said. ''But you know at the end of the day I've had a great time here, and I appreciate all they have done for me. At the end of the day, it's nothing that I'm really thinking about, just trying to get a victory on Sunday.''

Johnson later told The Tennessean he won't consider a pay cut. Speaking to other reporters, Johnson said he loves Tennessee and thinks it would be sad if he's playing elsewhere next season.

''From being in this league so long I have come to understand it's a business side of this ...'' Johnson said. ''I don't think I'll be out of work long.''

Johnson currently has 950 yards rushing with a 3.8-yard per carry average that also is the lowest of his career. With 50 yards against the Texans, he would become only the sixth running back in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in each of his first six seasons joining Barry Sanders, Curtis Martin, LaDanian Tomlinson, Eric Dickerson and Corey Dillon.

A dip in some of Johnson's numbers was expected because the Titans signed Shonn Greene to split the work. Johnson said the run game struggled early with mental mistakes with the Titans abandoned the run in other games.

Johnson has topped 100 yards only once this season with 150 yards Nov. 3 in a win at St. Louis, and he ran for 90 yards in last week's win at Jacksonville with Greene running for 91. Johnson said the coaches stuck to the game plan, and it worked. He does have four touchdown receptions, a career-best.

Some fans have been upset with Johnson since he signed his $53.5 million deal on Sept. 2, 2011. His production slipped to 1,047 that season, though he rebounded by running for 1,243 yards in 2012.

Texans interim coach Wade Phillips still sees Johnson as an offensive threat defenses have to plan around.

''He still has that great explosion,'' Philips said. ''There are not many players that can go 80 or 90 yards in one play for a touchdown, and he's one of them.''

Titans coach Mike Munchak said Johnson's durability is taken for granted as a 5-foot-11, 203-pound running back. Johnson has never missed a game and sat out his first practice this year last week to rest a sore knee.

''I think that's more of an accomplishment because that means he shows up every Sunday every year to do his job,'' Munchak said. ''That's something to be proud of as a running back. Do you wish it was higher? Should it be more per carry? All those things will always be questioned, but the bottom line is he showed up every Sunday, played hard, played his best.''

The coach whose own job security still must be decided first said good players make coaches look really good when asked if he'll lobby to keep Johnson around in 2014.

''One step at a time here,'' Munchak said.

Notes: RT David Stewart (shoulder), DT Jurrell Casey (right knee) and LB Zach Brown (illness) did not practice Thursday. Munchak expects Brown to be available Friday.


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org


Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

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