Chiefs fans anxious for the 2007 debut of running back Larry Johnson may not have to wait until the regular-season opener Sept. 9.Johnson said after Sunday’s workout that he intends to play in Thursday’s preseason finale against St. Louis at the Edward Jones Dome.
“If it was up to me, I’d play the whole game,” Johnson said. “But they’re not going to let that happen.”
The more likely scenario, coach Herm Edwards hinted, is that Johnson will only be in for a few series.
“It will be real fast,” Edwards said. “Don’t blink.”
Johnson missed training camp in River Falls, Wis., while his representatives attempted to work out a new contract with the Chiefs. He rejoined his teammates Tuesday — just minutes after signing a five-year extension for $43.2 million.
Although he spent the first half of August working out at an Arizona training facility, Johnson realizes he’s not in “football shape.” He said he may not be ready to handle his normal workload until the third or fourth game of the season.
“You can run sprints all day,” Johnson said. “But if you’re not out there running plays, cutting and dodging and accelerating … that stuff can tire you out quickly.
“I’m really going to push myself this next week and see where my body is after that.”
Johnson said he hadn’t discussed his status for Thursday’s game with his head coach — “If I’m suiting up, I’m playing,” he said — but Edwards seemed to understand the Pro Bowler’s desire to get back onto the field.
Edwards pointed out the need for Johnson to be tackled a couple of times before the regular-season opener on Sept. 9 at Houston. Edwards said his main goal is not to overuse Johnson — in the preseason or the regular season — while he’s still attempting to get into playing shape.
“When (running backs) get fatigued and tired, they get loose with the ball,” Edwards said. “The ball comes out, and all of a sudden they fumble. We’re not going to put him in that position. We’re going to be careful with him and bring him along.
“It’s a 16-game season. He’s not going to carry the ball as much the first three or four games. He’ll get a feel for where he’s at, and so will I.”
Even though he knows his role will be limited, Johnson is hoping to spark some life into the Chiefs’ offense in Thursday’s preseason finale. Kansas City’s first- and second-team units have produced just one touchdown in three games. Mounting an impressive first-quarter drive against the Rams could do wonders in terms of confidence heading into September.
“We need a spark,” Edwards said.
Johnson is certainly the player who can provide it. He said Sunday that his presence will improve the effectiveness of an offensive line that has looked inconsistent this preseason.
“A lot of guys running behind them don’t understand the ins and outs,” Johnson said. “It’s like I told Brian Waters the other day: If I was back there, I know what’s going to happen. I know how to react on certain plays to help the offensive linemen out.”
Johnson also seemed indifferent to Edwards’ decision to name veteran Damon Huard the starting quarterback over Brodie Croyle.
“It doesn’t matter to me,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t matter who’s handing the ball off. We’ve just got to be able to stay together and be consistent. We’ll complement each other as far as the offense goes.”
Source: Jason King, Kansas City Star