Chiefs part ways with running back Johnson
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Given good blocking and a fresh start, Larry Johnson might still be the power-running Pro Bowler who had back-to-back 1,700-yard seasons for Kansas City.
Are you listening, Seattle• What do you think, Indianapolis• Chicago• Houston?
Or he might be a declining malcontent who'll only cost money and cause trouble.
To that, every coach and general manager in the NFL is listening. The Chiefs released Johnson on Monday, the day he was due back from his second suspension in the past 12 months.
Any team with a faltering running game is bound to be tempted by Johnson, despite his baggage and his age (he turns 30 on Nov. 19).
"Any player that's available, we look at," said Bears coach Lovie Smith. "That's been our standard policy throughout. That'll be the case with Larry."
Houston coach Gary Kubiak agreed.
"When a name like that comes on the free agent market like today, we'll obviously go back and take a look at him just like any other player," Kubiak said. "Obviously, he's been a good player in this league and I'm sure he'll get a lot of interest from a lot of people."
Johnson has been high maintenance since the Chiefs drafted him in the first round out of Penn State in 2003. Unhappy because he thought he was going to be taken by the Pittsburgh Steelers, Johnson brooded while playing behind Pro Bowler Priest Holmes. He even prompted then-coach Dick Vermeil to say it was time for him "to take the diapers off."
His last brush with controversy came two weeks ago when he posted on his Twitter account a gay slur, insulted followers and questioned the competence of head coach Todd Haley.
He was suspended for two weeks, but Haley said the final decision to cast him aside was not made until early Monday.
"We decided it was in the best interests of the Kansas City Chiefs organization to move forward at this time," he said.
Behind a poor offensive line this year, Johnson has averaged a paltry 2.7 yards for the Chiefs (1-7) and appeared not to have the quickness and punishing power that enabled him to rush for more than 1,700 yards in Pro Bowl seasons in 2005 and '06.
Can he still be effective?
"I don't think I'll answer that because he's no longer on this team," Haley said.
Since rushing for a team-record 1,789 yards on an NFL-record 416 carries in 2006, Johnson has never been quite the same.
In 2008, then-coach Herm Edwards benched him for three straight games for violating team rules and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him a fourth game for violating the league's player conduct policy.
Johnson was later sentenced to two years' probation after pleading guilty to two counts of disturbing the peace. One woman accused him of throwing a drink on her and another said he had pushed her head at a Kansas City night spot.