CJ will test sore ankle while trying to keep Titans in playoff hunt
Posted: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 7:03 pm
By TERESA M. WALKER
AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — Chris Johnson says he originally feared he had hurt his right ankle badly, but says he expects to be able to play Saturday as Tennessee tries to keep its faint playoff hopes alive against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
At first, Johnson thought the injury was worse than the one he sustained in a playoff loss to Baltimore.
“It’s pretty sore,” Johnson said Tuesday after watching a short practice. “I haven’t ran on it or anything … But after the game trying to walk on it, I was limping really bad. Yesterday I was limping really bad. I had to shoot a commercial yesterday and I couldn’t really walk that much on it. I’m doing much better today.”
This has been Johnson’s worst season after missing all preseason before signing a $53.5 million extension.
Yet he is 70 yards away from 1,000 yards rushing for the season, which looked unlikely considering his struggles over the first half of the season. That would mean topping 1,000 yards in each of his first four seasons, something only Hall of Fame back Earl Campbell (1978-81) and Eddie George (1996-00) have done with this franchise.
And Johnson wants to extend that mark.
“Of course, any running back wants over 1,000 yards,” Johnson said. “That puts you up there in a group with the elite running backs and things like that even though not having the best of years. Still to go 1,000 yards, that’s something a lot of people probably thought wouldn’t happen this year.”
Saturday’s game also gives Johnson a chance at a do-over from the season opener when he ran for only 24 yards on nine carries just over a week after signing his new contract.
Jacksonville’s Maurice Jones-Drew, currently the NFL’s leading rusher with 1,334 yards, ran for 97 yards in the Jaguars’ 16-14 win.
Johnson said he and Jones-Drew have been battling since he came into the league in 2008 in a friendly competition to see who will lead the NFL in rushing. Jones-Drew has the edge in that this season, but Johnson is looking forward to a chance at some redemption Saturday as the Titans (7-7) need to win their final two games to have any shot at a wild-card berth.
“If you look at the past games between Jacksonville and Tennessee, he rush for more yards than I do, they win the game. When I rush for more yards, we usually win. It’s a big deal when we play against each other,” Johnson said.
Titans coach Mike Munchak is assuming Johnson will be OK, even though he was sore Tuesday. Johnson will run Wednesday, and Munchak said then they will see if they have a problem then.
If Johnson is limited by his ankle, that would be a problem because the Titans are thin at running back. Javon Ringer (broken right hand) was placed on injured reserve Monday night, and the Titans signed fullback Quinn Johnson, who filled in for Ahmard Hall during the first four games of the season. Hall took some snaps Tuesday at running back, ready to fill in if needed.
The Titans remain stuck in next to last in the NFL averaging 91.9 yards rushing per game, though Johnson has run for 100 yards or more four times this season.
Hall said he’s never gotten more than three or four carries in a game, most when former offensive coordinator Norm Chow was with the franchise.
“With CJ being down and him being hurt, they’re going to allow me to get a little running back in,” Hall said. “It’s something I’ve grown accustomed to in stepping in there. The guys are showing confidence in me, so that’s been a good deal.”
Published in The Messenger 12.21.11