LJ to the Rescue

After Saturday's morning practice, All-Pro running back Larry Johnson took to the fans. For nearly 30 minutes he signed every autograph possible. He smiled, posed for some photos and showed why he's the leader of this Chiefs football team.

This is Johnson's team. To Johnson, it doesn't matter if Willie Roaf or Will Svitek is playing left tackle. It doesn't matter that Tony Richardson went to Minnesota. If fullback Ronnie Cruz needs motivation or needs help with something, then he'll push him as he would any other offensive player.

"I need to be a leader and demonstrate to the young guys," said Johnson. "I'm the oldest back now. I need to show them how to practice and how to do certain things."

Though it's early, the Chiefs offense might enter the 2006 season with more question marks than the defense. I never thought I'd find myself typing those words. But early on, the defense is ahead of the offense, and they feel the need to carry their offensive teammates. That's a role reversal of epic proportions considering the last five seasons.

After practice, Edwards talked about pacing Johnson the next several weeks. "I told Larry that we're going to do that in the preseason games. We need to get him read for the regular season," Edwards said.

That might work in August but the All-Pro running back doesn't want any part of limiting his carries when the games begin in September.

"There is no such thing as too many carries," said Johnson. "I never want to come out of the game. In college, I ran the ball 30 times and I didn't know it."

Going into training camp, the talk was centered on Johnson and the records he might shatter this year. But even with the news that Roaf was retiring, Johnson doesn't sound all that worried about who's going to fill his shoes.

"I still have to run regardless if everyone falls down," said Johnson. "I still need to get a yard. I feel like I can always break enough tackles to get four or five yards. But even with Willie Roaf gone we have four other guys who were backing up, and they deserve some credit."

Johnson deserves some credit as well. He's now one of the elite running backs in the NFL. Even when you talk about LaDainian Tomlinson, Shaun Alexander and Clinton Portis, there is little doubt that Johnson feels like he's in a class by himself.

And over nine games last year, Johnson was in a class by himself. But he's not going to rest on his laurels.

"I've never started a full season," said Johnson. "So I can't put myself in a category with those people yet."

What he has done since Edwards took over as head coach is lead by example. He's not afraid to say what's on his mind. But more importantly, he's comfortable in the fact that he knows that he'll be the starter this season.

"This reminds me of my senior season at Penn State," Johnson said.

For those that don't remember 2002, Johnson led the NCAA in rushing. And knowing Johnson's drive and determination, I wouldn't be surprised to see him lead the NFL in rushing this year.

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