As Chris Johnson tries to etch his name into NFL annals as the sixth man in history to reach 2,000 yards and perhaps break Eric Dickerson’s record of 2,105, one thing is certain.
The Tennessee Titans star is enjoying the ride.
“I’m having fun because something like this, it’ll probably only happen once in a lifetime, so you’ve got to take advantage of it while you’re doing it,” Johnson said.
And why not? With 1,872 yards for the season, Johnson needs just 128 more to become the sixth man in NFL history to reach the 2,000-yard plateau. He needs just 75 yards between rushing and receiving to break Marshall Faulk’s single-season record of 2,429 yards from scrimmage.
But he wants more. In fact, Johnson wants it all – as in Eric Dickerson’s league record of 2,105 yards in a single season set in 1984. Johnson would need 234 yards to break that mark.
“If I get Dickerson, I get all of them. I want Dickerson,” Johnson said Wednesday.
The running back was in a good mood Wednesday, joking that he might take his Palm Pre on the field in Seattle to help keep him in the know regarding how many yards he needs to reach The Quest at Qwest Field.
“I’ve got a Palm Pre. They’ve got the NFL Network on there, and they update your stats and everything,” Johnson said.
When told that having such a device on the field would result in a fine from the league, he replied, “That’s if somebody sees it. I’ll keep it somewhere close.”
Johnson even stands by his statement that he believes he should be the MVP of the NFL, despite the Titans’ mediocre season.
“Yeah, I think I deserve it. Last year, I didn’t get Rookie of the Year, so I came in with a chip on my shoulder. So I feel like I deserve it,” he said.
And when asked if he was more deserving than Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, Johnson shrugged, “Yeah, more than Peyton.”
Even in a season where there will be no playoffs for the Titans, Johnson’s pursuit of the milestone and possibly the rushing record have made the close of the season something special.
He is beginning to etch his name alongside some of the greats in NFL history and some of the league’s royalty when it comes to running backs are now taking notice.
“I talked to Jim Brown probably about two weeks ago, and I talked to Marcus Allen,” Johnson said. “It’s all been within the last two or three weeks. They’ve just been following me and watching me and enjoying my game.”
Certainly his teammates are enjoying the ride as well, especially the members of the offensive line who are blocking for him.
“I take a lot of pride in it. Very few people have done it and very few offensive linemen can say they’ve blocked for a 2,000-yard back,” guard Jake Scott said. “I take a lot of pride in that and we’re going to put forth our best effort to try and get it done this week.”
They admit to sometimes getting caught up in the excitement when Johnson breaks free on a long run, as he has TD runs of 91, 89 and 85 yards this season.
“The long runs from the goal line, it’s unbelievable to sit back and watch that kid run,” right tackle David Stewart mused.
It seems as if every one of his teammates has a favorite C.J. moment of his own from this memorable season.
“There’s been a lot. I think the 89-yarder was against Jacksonville
and he kind of hit that safety and just ran him over, and he was gone,” left tackle Michael Roos said. “You just kind of see him hit the guy, you think he’s tackled him, and as soon as he gets past him, you just kind of stand there and watch the scoreboard for the five seconds it takes him to get there.”
That one is Johnson’s favorite as well, but other teammates pointed to a play against the Houston Texans where he actually pushed guard Eugene Amano in front of a would-be tackler in order to spring himself free for the 91-yard run.
“He used Eugene Amano as a slingshot. That was my favorite,” tight end Alge Crumpler said. “He grabbed Eugene, threw him in front of the tackler, shot out the back door and took it to the house. I love watching that replay when we go back and watch big runs.”
Receiver Nate Washington remembers it for a different reason.
“That was my first real glimpse at his speed. That was the first game where he was really breaking loose and running by himself. One of the plays where he broke, he had pulled Amato to the side of him,” Washington said. “I was actually known as a pretty speedy guy up there in Pittsburgh. So I wanted to run as fast as I could to see if I could keep up with him, and he pulled away from me. It was kind of fun trying to gauge my speed with his.”
The only ones who don’t like measuring that speed, of course, are the opposing defenses. Seattle coach Jim Mora, Jr. joked that the Seahawks had signed Usain Bolt to their practice squad in order to better simulate Johnson’s speed on their scout team.
Mora also knows what is at stake for his team regarding Johnson’s pursuit of the milestone, and despite Johnson’s super season, he has warned his players about not playing the equivalent role of Al Downing giving up home run No. 715 to Henry Aaron.
“You don’t want to be one of the guys missing the tackle for eternity,” Mora said. “You’re sitting there watching ESPN with your grandkids in 40 years, ‘Hey, look at granddad there missing that tackle on Chris Johnson when he went over the 2,000-yard mark.’ Yeah, we’ve talked about that. I haven’t had to say a whole lot. I think the guys understand it.”
Not a fun thought for the defense, but plenty of fun for the Titans if it comes to pass.
As Scott pointed out, “It’s fun when you look up and you see him running down the field, because you know no one is going to catch him.”