INDIANAPOLIS – Given the chance to emphatically endorse Chris Johnson as a big part of his first Tennessee Titans team, new coach Ken Whisenhunt was pretty lukewarm on the topic.
He didn't rip Johnson, who is still under contract, but said the right things. He didn't exactly stand on the table for the running back either when asked what he thinks Johnson has left in the tank.
"I can't speak about what he has left in the tank, you never know about that, I know I see a player who is there every Sunday," Whisenhunt said. "He's had a lot of success in the league, he has been to Pro Bowls, and you have a lot of respect for that. He practiced every day, from what I've seen of the records last year, and he played in a lot of games. He's been a good football player."
When an answer on a player includes pointing out that he practiced every day, you're reaching a bit. Basically, the answer was the equivalent of saying Johnson has a nice personality.
Whisenhunt was asked about another player whose future isn't clear, quarterback Jake Locker, and the coach did sound excited about him.
"I’m excited about what I’ve seen, as far as those qualities he has exhibited, his arrow is going up," Whisenhunt said.
Compare that to what he said when asked if he believed Johnson will be on the roster in 2014.
"Putting together the team is not an exact science. We’re under no deadline to do it," Whisenhunt said. "There’s no rush to make a decision."
Johnson has already made some waves this offseason, saying if the Titans don't "use me the way I am supposed to be used and let me be the horse, then I would rather them let me move on." Johnson has not come close to replicating his brilliant 2009 season when he eclipsed 2,000 yards. He hasn't had more than 1,364 yards in a season since then, and had just 1,077 rushing yards last year. His average was 3.9 yards per carry, the first time his average has dipped below 4 yards per carry in his career.
Titans general manager Ruston Webster was also very non-committal about Johnson. He said that Whisenhunt hasn't coached Johnson yet, so the coach doesn't know much about how he'd fit. Like Whisenhunt, he said the Titans would be patient in making a decision on Johnson's future.
"We’re not going to push it," Webster said. "If we did make a decision, it’s whenever we felt comfortable. We can be as patient as we want to be."
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