A day after joining the 2,000-yard club, Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson said he is ready for a busy off-season and a potential repeat performance.
Johnson finished Sunday with 134 yards in a 17-13 win at Seattle to end the 2009 season with 2,006 yards rushing, and said he believes he can one-up himself next year to get Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing mark of 2,105.
“It gives me something to look forward to next year — 2,105,” Johnson said. “Not getting the record, that’s something I can look forward to doing next year.”
Both Johnson and Titans coach Jeff Fisher believe the 24-year-old running back can possibly duplicate his 2,000-yard season, something that has never been done in the history of the NFL.
“I think he’s one player that has a chance to do it again. He’s young, and I think he has a chance to do it again. But the goal of the organization and the team is to win football games,” Fisher said, adding that he would like to see a second running back get a few more carries than the 64 LenDale White got this year.
Johnson is already eyeing Dickerson’s standard with envy.
“Of course, I’d like to be the first man to do that, to get 2,000 two years in a row and break Eric Dickerson’s record. And then next year, me and Vince [Young] will be playing together from week one just to see how many yards I would have,” Johnson said.
When Young was inserted into the lineup at quarterback with the Titans at 0-6, Johnson became the focal point of the offense, with Young adding a running threat of his own for the Titans.
During the first six games, Johnson was still sharing carries with White and averaged 99.3 yards per game on an average of 15.8 carries a game. In the 10 games Young started, Johnson took over the rushing duties almost exclusively, averaging 26.3 carries and 141 yards per game.
Johnson might have gotten even closer to Dickerson’s mark had referee Ed Hochuli not called Ahmard Hall for holding on a 62-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter with 9:50 to play. The extra yards would have given Johnson another 50 yards in his pursuit of Dickerson.
“There is no way that was a holding call. That was not a holding call at all,” Johnson said. “If they wouldn’t have called that back, I think I was like 50 yards away from Dickerson’s record and there was like [nine] minutes left. So it would have changed a lot. I really believe I would have gotten the record.”
Johnson said Hochuli must have been a fan of the former Rams and Colts star to have made the call.
“I think he grew up being a Dickerson fan or something like that, because with me being so close, he really didn’t want me to get that record,” Johnson said.
Fisher agreed, saying the call should not have been made.
“It should not have been called in my opinion,” Fisher said of the hold. “I was very disappointed in it. There could have been 20 of those called in the game. The play was called six yards down the field, and to me, it should not have been called. I don’t understand it.
"The disappointing thing about it is had it not been called, it would have changed things. We had eight minutes left to go in the game, and now we’re looking at the all-time record. That would have changed our approach to the ballgame.”
Fisher also indicated that Johnson should have gotten credit for an 81-yard touchdown run that was reversed in San Francisco back in November, saying he did not step out of bounds as officials ruled. The extra 39 yards, had that run stood, would have put Johnson within 10 yards of Dickerson.
“By the way, his foot didn’t touch the line in San Francisco, but that’s football,” Fisher said.
Johnson commemorated his stellar season by giving Rolex watches to his offensive linemen, Hall and tight end Alge Crumpler. The watches are engraved “CJ2K 2,006” and will be delivered this week to his teammates. Johnson also said he would like as many of them as possible to accompany him to the Pro Bowl.
As for what the off-season brings, Johnson said he plans to do exactly the same thing he did last year. He will come to Nashville for the required organized team activities, but plans to work out on his own, something that drew some questions from Fisher last year, but worked out well in Johnson’s performance in ’09.
“I’m going to do the same thing I did last year. I got 2,000 yards from doing what I did last year,” Johnson said. “So, I’ll be doing the same thing. I worked out in Orlando and worked out in California.”
Fisher, a stickler for having players partake in the off-season program, joked that Johnson “probably would have had 3,000 yards” if he had been in Nashville the entire off-season.
One place Johnson will not be this off-season is racing Olympic gold medal sprinter Usain Bolt. An erroneous report by ESPN’s Adam Schefter hinted that a race could take place, but Johnson said no, though the two sides did make contact with each other.
“We got word two days ago that he doesn’t want to do it. He only wants to run the 100 [meters]. He doesn’t want to run the 50. That’s the only way he’ll do it, if we run the 100,” Johnson said.
As for another topic regarding Johnson that is picking up speed, so to speak, could he potentially make a play for a contract extension, even with three years left on his rookie deal. Johnson’s base next year is only $550,000, as part of his $12 million rookie deal that had $7 million in guarantees.
“That’s something my agent has got to take care of, my agent and upstairs. I’m not sure. I need to get Bud Adams number,” Johnson said.