Byner firing caught Titans' Johnson off guard

Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 1:29pm

Titans running back Chris Johnson said he had no idea running backs coach Earnest Byner was about to be fired.

The Titans let Byner go over the weekend and hired Kennedy Pola away from the Jacksonville Jaguars to replace him. 

“I was surprised. I didn’t know anything about it,” said Johnson, who held a conference call with Nashville media on Wednesday. He is in Miami, where he is practicing for the Pro Bowl.

Johnson is coming off a 2,006-yard campaign, making him only the sixth player in NFL history to run for 2,000 yards in a single season. Even though Byner's dismissal was odd, he said trusts coach Jeff Fisher, who made the move.

“I’m not sure why or anything like that, but you’ve got to go with the head man’s call on that,” Johnson said. “He’s the head coach, and you’ve got to trust the decision that he makes, because he’s a great coach.”

Johnson said he had no inkling beforehand that Byner was about to be jettisoned, and said that even if he knew, he doubted any lobbying on his part would change things.

“That’s not my situation. I wasn’t asked. That’s not my situation. No matter what I said about that situation, it’s not gonna get him his job back or anything,” Johnson said.

Johnson and Byner gelled during their two seasons together. Both men had played at East Carolina University. Johnson said he spoke to Byner to wish him well.

“I talked to Earnest and I wished him the best of luck on finding a new job or whatever,” Johnson said. “I’m pretty sure it won’t be hard for him to find a job, coming off coaching a 2,000-yard rusher and a guy who broke all those records. I don’t think it’ll be hard for him to find a job.”

Johnson said Byner didn’t share with him any reason for the firing, but he said he has heard good things about Pola, who now comes on board as his position coach.

“They told me he’s a good guy. Actually, he worked me out before the draft, and Maurice Jones-Drew said, 'I’ve got a good guy,' as did [Jaguars quarterback David] Garrard,” Johnson said.

As for any goals for the Pro Bowl, Johnson said he just wants to have fun in the all-star game.

He's also glad to have some Titans teammates in the game with him. Quarterback Vince Young, center Kevin Mawae and defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch all made the game as replacements after others declined to participate.

As a final aside, Johnson said he won’t be taking Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco up on his offer of a foot race in Miami.

“Ochocinco challenged me to a race, but I really don’t have anything to gain by beating Ochocinco in a race,” Johnson said.