Chiefs: LJ's foot injury showing 'significant improvement'
The injured right foot of running back Larry Johnson "has made significant improvement," the Kansas City Chiefs said Thursday. What that improvement means for Johnson's playing status beyond this week remains unclear.
While Johnson's status has ranged from "very questionable" to "very unlikely" to Thursday's official status of "doubtful to out" for Sunday's game against the Denver Broncos, he has been ruled out by head coach Herm Edwards.
Greg Trott / Getty ImagesLarry Johnson had posted 100-plus yards rushing in three of the previous four games before Sunday's injury.
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» Video: Johnson injures foot
» Video: Johnson Week 9 highlight
What is more in question is Johnson's status for the remainder of the season. Two people close to the situation said Thursday that Johnson is “day to day”, meaning that he likely will be returning sooner rather than later, according to NFL Network's Adam Schefter.
The Chiefs medical staff examined Johnson on Wednesday night, and the team issued a statement on his status on Thursday.
"Larry has made significant improvement with less swelling and pain in his injured right foot," the team said in the statement. "His status will be re-evaluated again early next week with further exams and tests."
The statement was signed by Carl Peterson, the Chiefs' president and general manager, and team physician Dr. Jon Browne.
A report from earlier this week that Johnson broke his right foot in Sunday's loss to Green Bay and would not play again this season has yet to be confirmed. The report cited an unnamed source within the Chiefs organization. To date, the Chiefs have said only that Johnson suffered a mid-foot sprain.
Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards maintained on Wednesday that he has not been told that Johnson has a broken foot. Edwards has said on several occassions he's planning on facing the Broncos without the Chiefs' leading rusher.
"All I know is this is what I've been told. What I've been told not by that reporter but from our doctors is that his foot is still swollen," Edwards told reporters after Wednesday's practice.
"They're still trying to look at it to find out exactly where he's at. I do know this -- it's very doubtful in my mind that he's going to play this week. That's what I know. Don't shoot the messenger."
Asked directly if he had been told that Johnson's foot was broken, Edwards said:
"What I just told you is what I've been told. And that's all I care to know about, to be quite honest. What you have to understand is when you're a football coach, here's what you want to know on Monday, or on Sunday -- is a player going to be available to play on Sunday? Doctor says maybe, questionable, doubtful. Once they tell me they don't think he's going to be able to play, fine. I move on. That's all I've got to do. I don't have to worry about next week. I can't control next week. I've got to concentrate on this week."
The Chiefs (4-4) will use 34-year-old Priest Holmes and untested rookie Kolby Smith to replace Johnson, who signed a six-year, $45 million contract after holding out the entire training camp. Johnson rushed for more than 1,750 yards each of the past two seasons and has scored Kansas City's last 36 touchdowns on the ground. But he was off to a slow start and had only 559 yards on 158 carries when he was injured late in the fourth quarter against the Packers.
Ironically, Johnson got his chance to come off the bench and start when Holmes, a three-time Pro Bowler, went down in October 2005 with a spinal injury. Now, Holmes will have an opportunity to resurrect his career while Johnson nurses an injury that could keep him out much longer than one week.
Or will it? Edwards insisted he does not know.
"If they tell me something, when I get the message this is what it is, I'll be the first to tell you," he said. "I have nothing to hide. What do I have to hide? I've been told exactly what I just told you. Now, if someone else has been told something, good for them. that's what I've been told. All I want to know, to be quite honest, is he going to play Sunday? No, he's not playing. OK. Next.
"I'm the messenger. I guess I've got to take the bullets. You kill the messenger and we'll send another messenger up here tomorrow."
Holmes, who posted three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons from 2001-03, still holds the Chiefs' career rushing record.
Edwards has said he will not be the featured back, but Holmes said he's ready for 25 to 30 carries if that is what is needed.
"I'm a professional. I pride myself on being a professional," Holmes said. "I'm definitely ready. I'm prepared. Most of all, I'm having fun. I think the two years off gave me a chance to grow personally. I've learned a lot, experienced a lot. I'm just excited. I think the element I bring to the team is one that's going to keep you guessing. If you have that element, it's definitely a good thing."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.