Chris Johnson is certain he will play one more game this season. It won’t be the Pro Bowl.
Despite having sat out the last two days of practice with an ankle injury, the Tennessee Titans running back was clear about his intent to play in Sunday’s final regular season game, against Jacksonville (noon, CBS).
“I’m going to go,” he said.
Whatever questions exist about his productivity in the wake of a second straight Pro Bowl snub (he was selected each of his first three seasons) his durability is definite.
At 5-foot-11, 200 pounds and with nearly 1,500 carries to his credit he never has missed an NFL game because of injury. The only time he did not play was Week 17 in 2008, his rookie season, when the Titans had nothing for which to play. They had clinched homefield advantage throughout the playoffs and rested several notable starters in a loss to Indianapolis.
There’s nothing at stake this time either given that Tennessee’s playoff chances vanished weeks ago. Those of the Jaguars were gone even earlier.
“I know it’s our last game and I know we’re not going to the playoffs or anything like that,” Johnson said. “I still want to go out there and fight with our team.”
Johnson injured his right ankle during last Sunday’s loss at Green Bay. The only time he dealt with a similar situation was the 2008 playoff loss to Baltimore. After having rested in the final regular season game he sustained a sprained ankle that forced him to the sideline against the Ravens.
Coincidentally, he had 11 carries in both last week’s game and his only playoff appearance. The difference was that he never got going last Sunday and finished with 28 yards. In the game with the Ravens he had 72 yards and a touchdown before he was injured.
“Unfortunately, the one time he did get hurt was during the playoff game when we needed him badly, as it ended up,” coach Mike Munchak said. “For his size and the hits he’s taken over all the years of carrying the ball as much as he has, that’s a credit to him and the way he takes care of himself, that he can withstand that kind of punishment in the NFL that he takes, like any running back takes when they’re running the football, catching it, and on the field as much as he is.”
The hits are not the only things that have added up.
With one game remaining in his fifth season, Johnson needs 168 rushing yards to join Eric Dickerson, LaDainian Tomlinson and Emmitt Smith as the only players in NFL history with 7,000 or more rushing yards in their first five seasons. Among others who came close were Earl Campbell (6,9995) and Walter Payton (6,926).
“Anytime you can set a record and have your name up there with Hall of Fame-type guys, it’s always a great accomplishment to have under your belt,” Johnson said.
His career achievements, though, were not enough for his name to be included among this season’s Pro Bowl rosters, which were announced Wednesday. For the second straight year he and every other member of the Titans were overlooked for the honor.
The three backs chosen from the AFC were Houston’s Arian Foster, Baltimore’s Ray Rice and Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles.
“I respect those guys,” Johnson said. “They’re out here competing just like I am. Those guys had good seasons. I guess they had more votes. You just have to live with it and try to get better for next year.”
First, though, he has one more game to play this season and he does not intend to miss it.
“I’m getting better and better every day,” he said. “I’m going to give it a test [Friday] and see how it feels, get out there and run a little bit at practice.
“…I think every year everybody gets nicks and bumps and things like that. It’s just a situation of how well you take care of your body and how well you get ready for Sunday.”