View Full Version : Chiefs Teicher: Chiefs welcome Johnson back to practice

Tribal Warfare
11-13-2008, 01:50 AM
Chiefs welcome Johnson back to practice (http://www.kansascity.com/sports/chiefs/story/887892.html)
The Kansas City Star

Other than the trademark knee-high game socks he almost always wears on the practice field, Larry Johnson did his best to blend in.

Later on Wednesday, perhaps fearful of saying the wrong thing and becoming a further distraction to the Chiefs, Johnson kept his thoughts about the day’s importance to himself.

But there was no mistaking Johnson’s return to the practice field, even if you had to go behind the scenes to find it.

“LJ had the running-back room kind of hyped up during the meetings with his jokes,” rookie running back Dantrell Savage said. “We haven’t had that for a while. It’s been kind of quiet in there without him, but now he’s back and you know it. It was back to normal.”

Normal is the tech show coming from Johnson’s locker at the Chiefs’ practice facility. Usually, it’s hip hop blaring from his iPod speakers, but Wednesday, he substituted “Eddie Murphy Raw,” the 1987 standup movie, on his DVD player.

All of that has been missing during the last four weeks while Johnson was out. He was benched by the Chiefs for games against Tennessee, the New York Jets and Tampa Bay, then suspended for one against San Diego by the NFL for violation of its personal-conduct policy.

The Chiefs in his absence veered their offense away from one based around a power running game to one centered on the spread formation and the passing abilities of quarterback Tyler Thigpen.

While the Chiefs didn’t win any of their four games without Johnson, they were competitive and could have won the last three. They also appear to have stumbled on a more comfortable offensive philosophy.

So Johnson’s reappearance in the middle of things has the potential to create some awkward moments at the least. While that could still happen, Wednesday was more about welcoming him back and warm fuzzies.

“Larry’s not bringing all of that … I guess you wouldn’t say ‘baggage’ or whatever, but he hasn’t brought any of that into the locker room with him,” Thigpen said. “All he’s brought is a good attitude and a willingness to work.

“It’s definitely going to help our offense having him back. He gives us another threat out there.”

Coach Herm Edwards again wouldn’t say whether Johnson would start or how much he would play in Sunday’s game against New Orleans at Arrowhead Stadium. Jamaal Charles was limited in practice Wednesday and listed on the injury report with a sore ankle.

“He’s a part of (our offense),” Edwards said. “He’s going to get his carries.

“Our offense has changed a little bit, but we’re still going to try to run the ball, with him being one of the better backs in the league.”

Though Johnson was paid during the three games in which he was benched by the Chiefs, he didn’t practice and mostly wasn’t around for meetings. Edwards made that move because Johnson has been late for team meetings and other obligations.

He lost a paycheck during last week’s NFL suspension. Edwards indicated that Johnson has been punished enough.

“Four games of not playing football is probably fair enough,” he said. “That’s behind us. We’re moving ahead.

“A month is a lot of football. Larry and everybody else on this team has to conduct themselves a certain way. You have to be on time. You have to do things within the team policy. When you don’t, there are consequences.”

Johnson’s season had been filled with ups and downs before his benching and suspension. He had a 198-yard, two touchdown game against Denver and a 121-yard, one-TD game against Atlanta.

He also rushed for 22 yards against Oakland and two against Carolina. Still, even though he missed four games, his 417 yards put him 11th in the AFC.

“It looks like he’s fresh out there,” Charles said. “He’s moving good. There hasn’t been a pounding on his body lately, so he’s going to go out there and play hard and move fast.”

That’s why Saints coach Sean Payton is expecting to see plenty of Johnson on Sunday.

“He’s coming in with fresh legs,” Payton said. “He’ll be ready to carry the ball. Historically, he’s been able to handle multiple carries and a guy who’s comfortable when his carries are in the 20s or low 30s, so I think certainly we’ll see a big dose of him.”