Sure, the offensive line wasn't playing very well at the time, and Trent Green's injury didn't help the situation, but most people agreed Johnson was definitely lacking something – as if someone had cut Samson's hair.
Kansas City Star columnist Joe Posnanski seemed to think along the same lines, and wrote a fantastic piece on the subject of Johnson's power drain titled "Let's restore LJ's fire." Whether it had any effect is debatable, but Larry did rebound almost immediately – almost like someone had flipped a switch.
Back to the present. Larry's probably enjoying his 2006 offseason. He's an established NFL star, soon he'll (hopefully) have a bank account that will make LaDainian Tomlinson jealous and no one has said anything about diapers or guns or girlfriends or even Willie Roaf for that matter.
Oh no. No. It's happening again.
Larry is much too happy right now. He's frolicking with metaphorical bunnies in the sunny, green offseason fields of delight. His allergies aren't even acting up.
I'm serious. Every time I've turned around during the last five months, I see Larry Johnson – but not the Larry Johnson I've come to know and love over the last three years.
I see Larry, but he's smiling. He's hobnobbing with stock market bigshots in New York, wearing pinstripes and grinning from ear to ear as he rings the NASDAQ bell.
He's playing Easter Bunny (more bunnies?) with little kids on the Chiefs' practice fields, wearing a Yankees cap (the Royals are for unhappy fans with masochistic tendencies), planting eggs and barely even talking about football.
He's skipping around urban New York in mushy rap videos, his head in the sky as he rolls with passing homies, finally kissing Fantasia Barrino at the end of his magical journey (I am looking for a qualified hypnotherapist to help me suppress this memory).
And as of Tuesday, he's on ESPN's Jim Rome is Burning, but he's hardly on fire. He's showing off his painted Xbox (Halo over Madden? BAD LARRY! BAD!) and talking about his artistic talents.
"It's what I went to school for," says Larry of his creative abilities.
No, Larry! NO! You went to school for FOOTBALL. Remember? Joe Paterno? Penn State? The fun group activity where you run over defenders and sprint past defensive backs and score touchdowns?
"I love Kansas City," says Larry Johnson.
Oh no. No. This is not good. Someone get this man 300 cc's of steroid-infused linebacker-standing-in-his-way, stat! We're going to lose him!
Is LJ going to stand for "LoveJoy" by September? Will Mitch Holthus stop referring to Johnson as "The Doberman" and begin calling him "The Golden Retriever," a breed of canine well-renowned for their happy disposition?
Larry's just way too cheerful these days. Remember when the Chiefs gave Greg Wesley all that money? He stopped hunting heads and started hunting wide open receivers.
What will happen if the Chiefs give $80 million to Johnson? Does he start running out of bounds? Will he lobby for running back by committee? Will he someday allow Denver's DJ Williams to tackle him?
What can we do to halt this process?
For starters, we can get online with our Xboxes and defeat him using cheese tactics in a never-ending Madden assault. That should do the trick.
What's Dick Vermeil doing these days? Probably just lounging around the house up at his Pennsylvania ranch. Let's get him to prank call LJ a few times (Hey Larry, is Priest Holmes running? Better go and catch him!). Better yet, he can mail him a few bags of flaming diapers.
Troy Polamalu's probably not busy until training camp. Maybe he can run by Larry a few times a day, flipping that bushy hair around in his face. You know LJ can't resist reaching out for a good, hard tug on the Pola-Mane.
I don't know that any of this will really work. I'd think kissing Fantasia Barrino on the mouth would anger most American males, but we have no way of knowing what Jay-Z forced Johnson to do. Obviously, he's dedicated to his career after football.
We do know that LJ wants to be remembered as one of the greatest running backs of all time, so there's still a light at the end of the tunnel. If he's happy right now, all we can do is hope Joe Carini (his offseason trainer) instilled a reservoir of anger, hate and linebacker-crushing rage in Johnson while he was in New York.
In the mean time, maybe we can all accept Johnson's words at face value. Maybe he really does enjoy playing for the Chiefs and doesn't want to be traded.
Larry Johnson loves Kansas City.
Perhaps it's time that Kansas City started loving him back.
But don't be too obvious about it.
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