When Chris Johnson breaks a long run, the Tennessee Titans offensive linemen are certainly glad to be along for the ride.
Johnson revealed on Wednesday that if he reaches 2,000 yards this season, then all his linemen will have a new ride to celebrate the milestone with him.
Johnson, who currently leads the NFL with 824 yards rushing, said would buy cars for his linemen if he cracks the 2,000 barrier.
“It’s a goal of mine,” Johnson said. “It’s a real goal of the offensive line, because I told them that if I get 2,000 yards, I’d buy them all cars. So they’re really trying to do that.”
He said that now with that proclamation the offensive line might want him to reach 2,000 even more than he’d like to do it.
“I just think they want a car. I think they want me to get 2,000 yards more than I want me to get 2,000 yards,” Johnson said.
Johnson, named AFC Player of the Week for his 228-yard effort against Jacksonville on Sunday, declined to specify what kind of cars he would buy for his five blockers, but “probably some Hondas or something like that."
Guard Jake Scott said he has his sights set much higher than a Honda if Johnson reaches his goal.
“I told him a Mercedes, but I don’t know if that’s gonna work,” Scott said. “He said something like a Mini Cooper. We’ll see."
The normally quiet David Stewart had a retort for the suggestion of a sub-compact.
“I have to fit in it. That’s going to be the key,” Stewart.
Still, Stewart isn’t about to turn down a new car by any means.
“That’s fine with me. A free car is a free car. I don’t give a durn. I am a truck guy, but free is free,” Stewart said.
Johnson is still far away from the mark with nine games to play. His franchise-record performance on Sunday against Jacksonville upped his average to 117.7 yards per game. But to reach 2,000 he would still have to perform even better as he would need an average of 130.7 yards per game to attain the final 1,176 yards needed in the Titans’ final nine games.
“We’re a long ways off. He’s running great this year, but we’re a long ways off,” Scott said. “Talk to us in about six weeks, and we’ll let you know if we’re close still.”
If Johnson gets to 2,000 yards, he would join some exclusive company in pro football annals – O.J. Simpson (2,003 yards in 1973), Eric Dickerson (2,105 yards in 1984), Barry Sanders (2,053 yards in 1997), Terrell Davis (2,008 yards in 1998) and Jamal Lewis (2,066 yards in 2003).
There are two things Johnson doesn’t lack for in his quest for the milestone. Confidence and speed.
When it comes to confidence, Johnson said early in the season that he would like at least 25 touches a game to best showcase his talents. Last year, as a rookie, he rushed for 1,228 yards on 251 attempts and caught 43 passes for 260 more yards. In other words, he was that productive averaging just 19.6 touches per game.
On Sunday, Johnson had a season-high 26 touches (24 rushes, two receptions), marking only the second time this season he has had the ball 25 or more times in a game. The other time? That was the game against the Houston Texans where he rushed for 197 yards on 16 carries and added nine catches for 87 yards. Johnson scored three touchdowns of at least 50 yards in that game.
Johnson wants the steady workload to continue.
“I feel comfortable. As long as I continue to stay in the weight room and keep working hard in practice, I feel like I can handle that,” he said.
Plus, he was plenty happy that on his 89-yard touchdown run that he showed more than just explosiveness. He flattened Jacksonville safety Brian Russell just before breaking into the open field and racing to the end zone.
“I’m proud of that just to show people that I’m not all about my speed. I can make people miss, and I can break tackles, so I’m proud to show that,” he said.
The speed part is evident, as he ran a 4.24 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in 2008. Johnson said he hasn’t had to use his top-end speed very often in his brief pro career.
“It’s different running at full speed like that than trying to run a 40-yard dash,” Johnson said. “Out there on the field, you’ve got to set up blocks, you’ve got to make people miss. So a lot of times, you’re not really going to get up to full speed, unless you’re just clear in the open and trying to make it to the end zone.”
Asked who in the league came close to him speed-wise, Johnson answered, “Nobody. Nobody.”
Count San Francisco 49ers coach Mike Singletary among those who believe Johnson is in a class of his own in that regard.
“He’s very difficult to prepare for. As far as a comparison, no not off the top of my head. He’s a guy that’s really deceptive,” Singletary said. “I think every time he has his hands on the ball, you really have to know where he’s at. You kind of hold your breath until he’s on the ground.”