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Count Zarth
08-13-2006, 01:46 PM
http://www.philly.com/mld/dailynews/sports/15224133.htm

Chiefs' Johnson angry even in good times

BY PAUL DOMOWITCH
Philadelphia Daily News


RIVER FALLS, Wis. - Larry Johnson has 101 reasons to be happy right now. The Kansas City Chiefs' running back is coming off a sensational breakout season in which he rushed for an AFC-best 1,750 yards and 20 touchdowns, notched nine straight 100-yard rushing performances and earned his first Pro Bowl invitation.

For maybe the first time in his career, he has a coach -- Herm Edwards -- who truly believes in him; a coach who has promised him 30-plus touches every week, who has made him a team leader, who has proclaimed, "As Larry goes, we go."

But Larry Johnson and happy don't go together. Johnson always has preferred a scowl to a smile. Always has needed some injustice -- real or perceived -- fueling him.

Even now, with everything going his way, he has the same, ever-present chip on his shoulder that's been there since he started playing football and people started telling him he wasn't good enough.

"I'm never happy," Johnson said. "There's always going to be something ticking me off."

At Penn State, it was a stubborn, old coach with Coke-bottle glasses who didn't see fit to make him the Nittany Lions' main ballcarrier until his senior season, when he led the nation in rushing with 2,087 yards.

At Kansas City, another stubborn coach -- Dick Vermeil -- didn't even want to draft Johnson and pretty much ignored him for 2 seasons until Priest Holmes got hurt and there was no one else to turn to.

"It's been that way my whole life," Johnson said. "From Pop Warner to high school to Penn State to here. I had to sit when I shouldn't have been sitting. When I finally got the chance, I was determined to prove that (the coaches) were wrong."

He can't do that with Edwards, who made Johnson his starter months ago, long before it became evident that Holmes, who missed nine games with a neck injury last season, probably wouldn't return.

But there's always someone or something out there to keep his anger boiling. The skeptics who he says think his performance last season was a nine-game fluke. Or the doubters who think the Chiefs' running attack will shrivel up and die now that Pro Bowl offensive tackle Willie Roaf has retired.

"They act like we only ran it in one direction last year," Johnson said. "Like we ran the ball 99 percent of the time to Willie's side and 1 percent to the other side. With or without Willie, we have a good offensive line. With or without Willie, I'm going to get my yards. Nobody's going to stop me."

Johnson always has been one to speak his mind. And if somebody didn't like it, well, that was not his problem. Consider his frank comments last November about being a rich, young black athlete in Kansas City:

"I am very uncomfortable with the people here and the way they see me and the way they sometimes treat me. It has nothing to do with football. It has to do with when I'm out on the town.

"You get a young guy, tattooed up, diamonds everywhere, who can talk and speak his mind, but also back it up, and it kind of rubs people the wrong way. Usually out there, everybody's old. It's like the Bush Republican crowd."

Johnson hasn't held his tongue about the Chiefs, either. After they selected him in the first round of the '03 draft, he openly questioned the wisdom of taking him, considering that they already had Holmes. On more than one frustrating occasion during his first two years with the team, he asked to be traded. He ripped Vermeil two years ago when the Chiefs coach mentioned that it was time for Johnson "to take off his diaper."

"Larry says what he thinks, and it's not always what you want him to say," said Chiefs president Carl Peterson, who, against Vermeil's wishes, decided to draft Johnson in 2003. "I don't think he's a very trusting person to a lot of people. But I like him. And I like his honesty. I have great respect for him.

"He's come into my office a lot of times in the last 3 years, (asking), 'Why'd you draft me? Why don't you trade me?' Every time, I'd tell him the same thing. 'Patience. Patience.' It hasn't been easy for him, but now it's paying off."

Edwards wasted little time after he was hired in naming Johnson the starting running back.

"I wanted to make sure everybody understood that it was not going to be the Priest Holmes-Larry Johnson watch," he said. "Plus, I felt Larry needed to know that (he was going to be the starter). That it wasn't a subject for question. That he was going to be the guy, and that's the way it was going to be."

Johnson, of course, said the news didn't surprise him at all.

"I knew I was going to be the starter at the end of last season," he said. "Nobody had to tell me. I rushed for 1,750 yards. I earned it."

Edwards informed Johnson there would be more to his new role than only lugging the football. He told the running back he needed him to take a leadership role on the team and put him on the eight-man player committee that he meets with each week to discuss team issues.

"I think Larry walked out the door after that and thought, 'Wow, that's never happened to me before,' " Peterson said.

Edwards also told Johnson he needed to be more cooperative with the media.

"Whether he likes it or not, he's one of the faces of the Chiefs," the head coach said. "He's got to speak on everyone's behalf at times. He's in that position, whether he likes it or not, of leadership. They're going to ask him a lot of questions before they ask anyone else, because he's the running back. He's the guy getting all of the notoriety right now. And with that comes responsibility. I don't think he's ever been asked to do that before. But he's taken it and run with it."

Johnson spent the first seven games of last season rotating with Holmes, but Holmes got a much larger share of the workload (20 touches per game to Johnson's 11.6).

When Holmes got hurt in late October, Johnson went on one of the most impressive nine-game tears in NFL history, 1,351 yards and 16 touchdowns, eclipsing 100 yards in every game.

"He's a very physical runner," Edwards said of the 6-1, 230-pound Johnson. "He's got great explosion in the hole. Great vision. When he hits the hole, once he turns his shoulders up, he eats the ground up. It's not like 1 or 2 yards. All of a sudden, he's got 5 or 6 yards and he's running. He's going."

Johnson runs angry. In practice the other day, he was running around right end when he spotted cornerback Patrick Surtain. He could have kept running to the outside, but preferred to dip his shoulder and fire into Surtain.

Peterson recalls Joe Paterno telling him about a Johnson run at Penn State in which he broke into the secondary, then slowed down and waited for the safety to close on him so that he could lower his shoulder and take him on, even though he could have outrun him.

Maybe because he is a coach's son, Johnson is not your typical NFL player. He has a respect for the history of the game that most of his teammates do not. During the offseason, he spent a few days at NFL Films in Mount Laurel, N.J., watching film of many of the game's greatest running backs. On occasion, he has compared his running style to several former players, including Jim Brown, Marion Motley and Chuck Muncie. "I don't know if he decided early on that he was going to be (like) Jim Brown, but he runs with the same punishing style as Brown," Peterson said. "And then he can outrun you. He's a special player."

Demonpenz
08-13-2006, 01:48 PM
lighten up king pink!

Count Zarth
08-13-2006, 01:51 PM
I wonder who is on that players' committee?

I'll guess:

Larry Johnson
Trent Green
Will Shields
Tony Gonzalez
Kawika Mitchell
Sammy Knight
Patrick Surtain
Jared Allen

Tribal Warfare
08-13-2006, 01:58 PM
L.J. is one bad MOFO!

4th and Long
08-13-2006, 02:01 PM
"I'm never happy," Johnson said. "There's always going to be something ticking me off."
This is F'ing news? Give me a break.

hypersensitiveZO6
08-13-2006, 02:04 PM
I wonder who is on that players' committee?

I'll guess:

President: Rich Scanlon
Larry Johnson
Trent Green
Will Shields
Tony Gonzalez
Kawika Mitchell
Sammy Knight
Patrick Surtain
Jared Allen

Fixed your post.

Count Zarth
08-13-2006, 02:06 PM
Larry is like Pedro Cerrano in Major League.

"I'm pissed now, Joboo. Look, I go to you. I stick up for you. You no help me now, I say, f*ck you, Joboo. I do it myself."

Demonpenz
08-13-2006, 02:07 PM
Larry Johnson would make a great linebacker.

Rain Man
08-13-2006, 02:14 PM
Would you Kansas City people stop being mean to young, rich black men with tattoos and diamonds? I mean it!

hypersensitiveZO6
08-13-2006, 02:15 PM
Would you Kansas City people stop being mean to young, rich black men with tattoos and diamonds? I mean it!

Is that what you call them in Denver?

ROFL