Chris Johnson never has been one to run from attention.
The record-setting Tennessee Titans running back, in fact, generally relishes any opportunity to be recognized as a star.
However, three days after he gained national notoriety for his tribute to the victims of the Newtown, Conn., shooting and a subsequent encounter with one of the families, he said he planned to take a "step back."
“I have gotten a lot of reaction from it,” Johnson said. “A whole lot. I actually talked to the [McDonnell] family, talked to one of the older brothers, Jack, on the phone.
“… I kind of want to step back a little bit because I really don’t want to make this whole thing about me. I kind of did it for the kids and the family. I really don’t want to make it about me.”
Johnson had the names of the 26 victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on his shoes during the Titans’ 14-10 victory over the New York Jets on Monday. He scored the game’s first touchdown with a 94-yard run, the longest in franchise history.
His gesture caught the attention of the McDonnell family, whose daughter Grace was among the victims. A friend of the McDonnell’s reached out and helped facilitate the phone conversation, which took place Tuesday.
“You get a whole sense of it and hearing it in the kid’s voice, that he’s trying to be strong,” Johnson said. “But it’s a situation where you can’t hide that. I can tell how he feels. I lost my grandmother earlier this year, and just knowing how that feels I kind of want to do something to kind of at least try to lift his spirit.”
He said that he sent “six or eight” Christmas gifts to the McDonnells and plans to donate the shoes to a charity to benefit the victims of the shooting. Any future actions in the matter, though, he plans to keep to himself.
He has made it clear to the McDonnells, though, that he is available to them anytime.
“The family, they have my number and I told them when I was talking to them that if they ever need anything or whatever I’m just a call away,” he said.
Among other things Johnson discussed Thursday during his weekly media session were:
• Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson’s chance to rush for 2,000 yards this season
Peterson leads the NFL with 1,812 yards less than a year removed from reconstructive knee surgery. Johnson is the most recent of six NFL players all-time to get to 2,000 in a season (2,006 in 2009).
“I wouldn’t say that I’m rooting for him to get it, but I want him to do the best that he can do,” Johnson said. “When he got hurt last year, I sent him a text to see how he was doing. So I wish him the best and whatever he does I’ll be happy for him and congratulate him.”
• Reports recently from several national media sources that the Titans planned to keep him next season, which means early in the offseason he will be guaranteed $9 million for the 2013 season.
“When you hear something so much and continue to hear it, it’s a situation that makes you believe it,” he said. “At the end of the day, I can’t sit here and worry about that. I have to continue to play and continue to make plays on Sunday.
“… If [they cut me], it won’t be any bad blood between me and the Titans because they allowed me to do so much here. If it wasn’t for them drafting me, it wouldn’t be possible. … Honestly, I don’t know.”