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tk13
12-05-2004, 02:27 AM
http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/sports/football/nfl/kansas_city_chiefs/10337558.htm

Priest provides opening

By IVAN CARTER The Kansas City Star


When Larry Johnson burst across the goal line last Sunday with the first meaningful touchdown of his NFL career, he might have been tempted to do a little celebrating.

No funky dance. He didn't spike the ball, and two seasons' worth of frustration along with it. No Arrowhead leap into the appreciative crowd.

Johnson simply turned and flipped the ball to the closest official before jogging to the sideline.

“That's just my style,” Johnson said. “It's like: I've been in here before. When I get in there the next two years or the next three years, I'm going to act the same way. I've scored touchdowns before. I'm a running back. I rushed for two G's when I was in college, so I'm not going to act like I've never been in the end zone before.”

With Priest Holmes injured, the opportunity is ripe for Johnson to keep aiming for the end zone. But even if Johnson performs at a high level the rest of the season, only time will tell whether he will consistently get a chance to score touchdowns in a Chiefs uniform.

What the Chiefs do know as they head into today's game against the 4-7 Raiders and their 22nd-ranked rush defense: Holmes will miss his fourth consecutive game, the Chiefs have no idea whether he will play again this season, and his knee injury has opened the door for Johnson and Derrick Blaylock to hawk their wares.

“He's absolutely the guy,” team president/general manager Carl Peterson said of Holmes.

“But we'd like to get him well and playing before the season concludes so he feels good about himself and we feel good about him. But this is also a great opportunity for Derrick and Larry.”

For Johnson, today's game will provide another opening to justify Peterson's decision to spend a first-round pick on him in the 2003 draft. For Blaylock, it represents security.

Unlike Johnson, Blaylock wasn't a first-round draft pick and does not have a contract locked up for next season.

For a former fourth-round pick who had to overcome a broken leg just to get noticed coming out of Stephen F. Austin, a few strong performances in these final five games could lead some running back-hungry team to open the wallet this offseason.

And that would make a world of difference for this 25-year-old married father of three.

“I know that I have a big opportunity right now,” Blaylock said. “It's very important when you have a family and you know that you can't play this game forever. But at the same time, it's not like I'm going to go out there thinking about what's going to happen in the offseason. You can't think about that stuff when you're trying to win ballgames. … That's not the kind of person or player I am.”

Blaylock, who has rushed for 451 yards and seven touchdowns this season, would prefer to stay in Kansas City, where he has made a home since 2001. But he knows that better opportunity may exist elsewhere.

Holmes is under contract with the Chiefs next season. Barring any further damage to that sore knee, he will be the featured back.

Unless a trade occurs, which would be unlikely, Johnson also will be back, and teams simply don't spend first-round draft picks on players without giving them a chance to earn their keep. A little thing called the salary cap prevents that.

“Whether you like it or not, there are going to be changes next year,” Johnson said. “I know Coach Vermeil would love to keep all of us, but the reality of the situation is that's probably not going to happen. … These next five games, you are going to see guys playing for their careers.”

Of course, the man paying the most attention in the next five weeks will be Peterson. He knows that Holmes will be 32 next October and that his star running back already has endured several major injuries. This one won't require surgery, but it has put Holmes on the shelf for the longest period since he missed seven games during the 1999 season.

Holmes has touched the ball 3,319 times since joining the Chiefs as a free agent in 2001, and the grind led him to consider retirement last offseason. How much can he have left in the tank after four of the most brilliant seasons an NFL back has ever had?

The question on Johnson is whether he has the quickness and instinct necessary to be a featured back. He showed good things last week against San Diego by rushing for 43 yards on 10 carries, but he broke down in pass protection, allowing Chargers linebacker Randall Godfrey to roll over him on his way to Trent Green.

The Chiefs were happy to see Johnson aggressively attack the line of scrimmage against San Diego. He broke tackles and showed burst when he had an opportunity to turn the corner on a couple of toss sweeps.

“This is about showing the Chiefs and showing the NFL what I can do,” Johnson said.

“That's why last week felt good, because I was able to perform well against a good run defense. I have to keep it going so some doors can open up for me.”

Blaylock has averaged an impressive 4.9 yards per carry as a pro, can catch the ball out of the backfield, is solid in pass protection and is a valuable special-teams player. But at 5-foot-9, 210 pounds, questions remain about how he would hold up during a full season as a featured back.

Dick Vermeil, for one, thinks Blaylock would flourish.

“He's in a great position,” Vermeil said. “He needed this opportunity to be able to shop his wares throughout the league so he'll better his earning power.”

OldTownChief
12-05-2004, 02:33 AM
Good read. I've always respected Ivan's takes.

Spicy McHaggis
12-05-2004, 02:33 AM
Of course Johnson's being all congenial now that he's getting touches. And Blaylock's gone. dammit.

OldTownChief
12-05-2004, 02:36 AM
Of course Johnson's being all congenial now that he's getting touches. And Blaylock's gone. dammit.

I wonder whose fault that is.

big nasty kcnut
12-05-2004, 04:01 AM
I like lj cause he bring a change of pace back when priest is resting.

Gaz
12-05-2004, 06:39 AM
Holmes’ injury gives Blaylock a chance to advertise his skills. Someone will sign him away from us next season. I do not believe he will settle for 3rd RB after Holmes and Johnson.

xoxo~
Gaz
Not even considering the possibility that Blaylock pulled a Harding on Holmes.

Count Alex's Losses
12-05-2004, 07:11 AM
I want to see Johnson get a full 20 carries one of these games.

Bowser
12-05-2004, 10:02 AM
What the hell ever happened to Omar Easy?

Hoover
12-05-2004, 10:17 AM
Johnson should be the starter and get 20 carries, we need to drive up his value for a trade. If we can't swing a trade we have to let Blaylock go, and get behind Johnson as ther RBOTF.

Johnson bitched all the time while riding the bench at Penn state, this is nothing new, when he is the man I'm sure will be a stud, and his "attitude problems" will go away.

Deberg_1990
12-05-2004, 10:44 AM
Its nice to give Johnson some work and showcase his skillz. IM sure Blaylock is as good as gone next year so we need to see what LJ has. I honestly beleive in the Long run that LJ would be our best option. Johnson is bigger, runs with more power and can get the tough yards. All he needs is game time experience. Blaylock is good too, but im not convinced that he can be a grinder type of back over the long haul.

Sure-Oz
12-05-2004, 11:30 AM
Just give it to LJ 15 times atleast from here on out, mix in blaylock since we probably won't have blaylock next season.

el borracho
12-05-2004, 11:36 AM
[url]By IVAN CARTER The Kansas City Star


Dick Vermeil, for one, thinks Blaylock would flourish.

“He's in a great position,” Vermeil said. “He needed this opportunity to be able to shop his wares throughout the league so he'll better his earning power.”
That seems pretty clear. Blaylock is gone in 2005.

htismaqe
12-05-2004, 11:43 AM
Blaylock was a late-round draft pick and will be a restricted free agent.

With the performance against Atlanta alone, he secured himself far more money than we'll want to match, considering the holes on defense...