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Old 08-01-2006, 06:12 PM  
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USA Today - Sports: Johnson running for title, not necessarily 2000 yards

By Jim Corbett, USA TODAY
RIVER FALLS, Wis. Larry Johnson secured each handoff or short pass and raced 30 more yards beyond the last defender time and again during the Kansas City Chiefs' sweltering opening weekend of training camp.

Kansas City's driving force isn't slowing down, no matter what. He is too busy readying himself for a postseason berth.

The Pro Bowl running back wasn't fazed by the 100-plus-degree heat index or Wednesday's news that 11-time Pro Bowl left tackle Willie Roaf plans to retire because of knee and hamstring injuries. Kyle Turley, the former New Orleans Saints and St. Louis Rams tackle attempting a comeback two years after back surgery, has assumed Roaf's spot following his signing in early June.

Johnson, 26, is primed to answer some of the coming season's biggest questions:

Can Johnson, who came on strong with 1,750 yards and 20 rushing touchdowns in 2005, pick up where he left off? Can he rampage through defenses over a full season the way he did the last nine games when he ripped off nine consecutive 100-yard rushing performances? Can he romp anew without Roaf?

Johnson replaced injured starter Priest Holmes, whose career remains in limbo following an Oct. 30 neck injury. The fourth-year pro is focused on a collective goal despite the buzz that he could be the sixth running back in league history to join an elite club.

"Two thousand yards would be nice. But 2,000 is more for the fantasy draft guys," Johnson says. "I'm about getting the Super Bowl ring for (quarterback) Trent Green, (guard) Will Shields and my team.

"Hopefully, I do get 2,000 yards.

"Defenses are going to put eight in the box against me the first eight games to see if they can stop me. But at some point in a game, I'm going to turn loose."

He's readying for the long run.

"I told Larry that with being the guy, you're not going to touch the ball in practice 30 times," new Chiefs coach Herman Edwards says. "In a game, you're going to touch it 30 times. You get the ball in practice, you've got to finish; you've got to get yourself in condition to carry the ball that many times, especially in the fourth quarter.

"He's taken it to that level now where he's finishing everything full speed."

Johnson is a combustible yet introspective mix of old-school values and new-age edge. His right forearm bears a tattoo tribute to jazz great Billie Holiday.

Tattoos on his left forearm and biceps pay homage to slain hip-hop icon Tupac Shakur and honor both Johnson's grandfather and his father, Larry Johnson Sr., Penn State's defensive line coach.

Fullback Ronnie Cruz calls Johnson "The Hater" because the 6-1, 230 power back loves dealing more punishment than he receives.

"I run in a rage," Johnson says. "Most of the guys on this offense are older, and they don't really talk much. Sometimes I have to get them going, so I start trash talking. Anytime we get a TV timeout, I'm trash talking the other team because they never expect that from a running back. You expect that out of wide receivers because they don't get hit that much."

Fueled by Denver Broncos slights, Johnson ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-27 win Dec. 4.

"(Linebacker) Al Wilson of the Broncos is the biggest trash talker who gets them going," Johnson says. "But in the fourth quarter, those guys weren't talking anymore. They were breathing heavy. And I was still trash talking."

He hopes to get Turley to join in.

"People are scared enough by all his tattoos," Johnson says. "I'm glad he's on my side, because in games, I'm going to get him talking, too."

Says Turley, who blocked for Deuce McAllister and Ricky Williams in New Orleans and Marshall Faulk and Steven Jackson in St. Louis:

"Larry reminds me of a combination of Deuce and Ricky with his speed and power and the great vision Marshall has. He has the talent to get 2,000 yards, and we have the talent on the offensive line to make that happen."

Rushing toward record
Most consecutive 100-yard rushing games:
14 Barry Sanders, Detroit Lions 1997
11 Marcus Allen, Los Angeles Raiders 1985-86
9 Walter Payton, Chicago Bears 1985
9 Fred Taylor, Jacksonville Jaguars 2000
9 Deuce McAllister, New Orleans Saints 2003
9 Larry Johnson, Kansas City Chiefs 2005

Source: NFL Record & Fact Book
Posts: 221
eChief is a favorite in the douche of the year contest.eChief is a favorite in the douche of the year contest.
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