Larry Johnson could rejoin Chiefs
By ADAM TEICHER
The Kansas City Star
RIVER FALLS, Wis. | The Wisconsin portion of Chiefs training camp ends today without an appearance by holdout running back Larry Johnson.
Johnson could be very much a central figure at practice this weekend when the Chiefs resume their workouts in Kansas City.
Multiple sources said Monday that the Chiefs and Johnson had narrowed their once considerable differences over terms of a contract extension and a deal could be struck sometime this week.
If Johnson and the Chiefs have an agreement by Friday, he could be ready to play in the Aug. 23 preseason game against New Orleans at Arrowhead Stadium. One source said the sides were so optimistic about a forthcoming agreement that Johnson might be at Arrowhead Stadium for Thursday night’s exhibition game against Miami.
Chairman Clark Hunt was in River Falls on Monday and huddled with president/general manager Carl Peterson and other club officials on how far the Chiefs should go on their next contract offer to Johnson.
Publicly, Peterson said he didn’t believe a deal was imminent.
“I’m cautiously optimistic a deal will get concluded, but exactly when I can’t tell you. I really can’t,” Peterson said. “I would say we’re still communicating. Are we real close? Not from where I sit.
“The best thing for you to say is that we’re still talking pretty much on a daily basis. There are things we’re still stuck on, and I can’t say how long that’s going to take.”
Privately, the Chiefs were ecstatic about the timing of the deal, assuming it gets done this week. The Chiefs would have saved three weeks of training camp wear and tear on Johnson, but he would still have a couple of weeks in which to prepare for the season.
They showed no concern that these three weeks will cost Johnson once the regular season begins.
“That’s an impossible question to answer because every player is different,” said Charley Casserly, a former NFL general manager and now a television studio analyst for NBC who attended the Chiefs-Browns preseason opener Saturday night in Cleveland. “There is no way of knowing how much this time he lost will hurt him until after the fact. Even Larry Johnson doesn’t know the answer to that question.
“You don’t know what kind of shape he’s in. You don’t know whether he’s been working out. There have been running backs who missed training camp and played well, and there have been running backs who missed training camp and didn’t play well or got hurt.”
Johnson’s return would affect the Chiefs’ other top running backs — but none more than Priest Holmes.
The Chiefs will probably keep three running backs.
Johnson, Michael Bennett and rookie Kolby Smith are the likeliest candidates.
The Chiefs are delighted with Smith, and privately have said he was a steal as a fifth-round pick. The Chiefs believe Bennett, the starter in Johnson’s absence, is a better player at this point in their careers than Holmes.
That would leave no roster space for Holmes unless the Chiefs do something unorthodox like keeping four halfbacks. Even then, it’s hard to picture Holmes carving a playing role for himself.
“Whether this team has an opportunity for me to remain here, I’m not really concerned with that,” Holmes said. “Remember, I came into this league without being drafted.”
He has yet to practice and said Monday that he was still at least about 10 days away from being allowed to do so.
“You can’t fit 3 1/2 months of offseason training into three weeks,” he said.
Holmes would like to play in the final preseason game Aug. 30 against the Rams in St. Louis, something the Chiefs are hoping for as well.
“He has to find out,” coach Herm Edwards said. “We all have to find out. He’s in good condition. It’s just a matter now of getting him in a game.”