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VOL. 37 | NO. 45 | Friday, November 8, 2013

A sign of maturity from often-criticized Chris Johnson

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Chris Johnson ran for 150 yards and two touchdowns against the Rams

-- Ap Photo/L.G. Patterson

Shortly after the Tennessee Titans won the Jeff Fisher Bowl, thanks in large part to a resurgent running game, Chris Johnson revealed that the Titans did something they hadn’t done since the end of the Fisher Era in preparation.

Johnson suggested during the week to Coach Mike Munchak that running backs and offensive linemen get together to bounce ideas off each other and to try and get on the same page. It was something that used to happen regularly before center and offensive line leader Kevin Mawae retired after the 2009 season.

“We really just go over the plays that we’re gonna run,” Johnson explains. “I let them know what I’m thinking, and they let me know what they think. It helps us to get on the same page.”

The Titans’ running game, which had been stagnant and unproductive for a month or more, responded with 198 yards and four touchdowns on 38 carries against the Rams.

Johnson himself was responsible for 23 of those carries for 150 yards and a pair of scores.

“We used to get together, different groups would get together,” Munchak explains. “Obviously, the line, the tight ends and the backs did that for a long time.

“(Johnson) mentioned to me about doing some of that again, and I told him to get with (Michael) Roos and those guys, and they got together Thursday.

“Camaraderie makes a difference, understanding each other’s issues and talking to each other about it instead of a coach always explaining things.

“I’m glad it helped.”

While the meeting probably wasn’t a cure-all, it showed a couple of things not often previously seen from the often-ctiticized Johnson.

Johnson, fairly or unfairly, has sometimes been labeled as a selfish player over his career.

When asked about personal goals and things like running for 2,500 yards, CJ unfailingly would answer that he believed it was something he could accomplish, no matter how farfetched it seemed.

Honest and unfiltered comments like that from Johnson didn’t always play well in the eyes of media and fans, especially after Johnson labeled himself as a “playmaker” during his now famous 2011 holdout that landed him a $53 million contract.

Sunday’s revelation that it was CJ who initiated restarting of the players-only meeting shows a maturity and dedication that might not have been present just a couple of years ago when the storyline revolved around the contract, his on-field struggles and some finger-pointing at the offensive line.

It showed that perhaps Johnson is being sincere when he said at the start of training camp that his goal this year was for the Titans to win, return to the playoffs and make a run at the Super Bowl.

Remember, while Johnson has tasted plenty of individual success in his five-plus year NFL career, he has only sniffed the playoffs one time – his rookie year.

Ironically, that was the only game in his career that he was unable to finish after the Baltimore Ravens knocked him out with an ankle injury and derailed the Titans’ Super Bowl hopes.

It’s taken awhile, and maybe it’s not yet a finished process, but the fact that CJ has kept publicly quiet during the run game’s struggles this year, then went behind the scenes to take the initiative to try and fix it, is certainly a sign that his focus appears to be in the right place.

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com and is a blogger for National Football Post.

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