There were times Thursday when Vince Young ran the offense as if he wanted to protect a fourth-quarter lead. In other words, he was in no hurry.
That obviously wasn’t the case, given that it’s only April. Instead, the Tennessee Titans’ quarterback was concerned with the well-being of running back Javon Ringer.
A second-year pro out of Michigan State, Ringer was the only tailback on the field for the second of the 14 Organized Team Activities (OTAs) the team will conduct this offseason, which meant he was involved with virtually every offensive snap.
“I know he’s getting a lot of reps,” Young said. “I try to slow it down for him in the huddle when he gets back so he can get a little breather. From the looks of it right now, he’s doing a phenomenal job.”
Ringer entered the offseason third on the depth chart following a rookie year in which he carried just eight times in seven games. He also returned nine kickoffs.
He moved up a spot last weekend when LenDale White was sent to Seattle in a trade on the third day of the NFL draft.
Then he stepped in with the starters Tuesday during the first OTA when Chris Johnson, the NFL’s leading rusher in 2009, was a no-show. That was the case again Thursday.
“I’m ready to take as much as need be until C.J.’s ready to return,” Ringer said. “My main focus is making sure I’m doing my part to contribute to the team and making sure, even with the absence of C.J. and as good a running back as he is, (that) our offense doesn’t miss a beat.”
Johnson has publicly stated that he wants to be the highest paid player in the league. He was named Offensive Player of the Year following the 2009 campaign, during which he set an NFL record for total yards in a season and became the sixth player in NFL history to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season.
He has played just two years under a five-year contract he signed after being drafted 24th overall in 2008.
“This is not the first time we’ve had these things come up,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “The guys would prefer that he’s here; we all would prefer that he’s here. … He knows what it takes to get into shape and do those things, but it’s hard to get it done elsewhere.”
For now, though, it’s up to Ringer to play the part of Johnson in workouts and to prepare himself to step in as needed during the regular season.
At 5-foot-9, 205 pounds, he is similar in build to Johnson (5-11, 200). The same is true of his running style, unlike White, who offered a different look and a change of pace as the backup to Johnson.
“I do feel like I can contribute just as well as C.J.,” Ringer said. “Obviously, nobody is as fast as C.J., but I feel like I have my own attributes that will help me be successful.
“I definitely have to step up and make sure I’m 100 percent with the plays and being able to know my assignments.”
For now, he’s getting almost 100 percent of the work. The only time he does not is when fullback Ahmard Hall gives him a rest.
“With all the work I put in leading up to this point, I feel like I’m in pretty good shape,” Ringer said. “…This benefits for me to be able to get the work so that when C.J. does get back, I’ll be pretty good.”
• Johnson was not the only player absent for this week’s workout.
Linebacker David Thornton and tackle Michael Roos both were excused.
Tight end Bo Scaife, who recently signed his one-year tender from the team, and linebacker Stephen Tulloch, who has not signed his tender, were not excused.
“(Scaife and Tulloch) are obviously taking advice from their agent,” Fisher said. “That is what it is. … We are hoping we can get things worked out and get them in.”