In the next few days, more and more details will shake out about the contract numbers (19 million guaranteed) and the negotiations themselves, but regardless of how it happened, the Chiefs and Johnson can be proud of themselves. It got done.
And naturally, the whole team is buzzing over his return.
"I think anytime you get a player of his caliber back it creates some excitement," said head coach Herm Edwards. "He's that kind of guy – an exciting football player, and one of the best runners in the league. So, it helps you; it helps everyone, your offense, your defense."
Johnson signed his contract this morning and within a couple of hours was back on the practice field. Of course, LJ was itching to get back to the team throughout the whole process. It took a late night conversation between Johnson and Chiefs president Carl Peterson to get the deal done, with the running back iterating to Peterson he wanted to remain a Chief and wanted to get the deal done. When it was finally consummated the next morning, LJ got into the action immediately.
"Frankly, it surprised me a little bit," said Peterson. "I met with him last night. He called me and wanted to chat and we met privately. I could see that he very much wanted to get on the field. He expressed that to me - that he wanted to be out here with his teammates. I don't know if I've ever seen a guy sign his contract that fast. But he wanted to get out here today and get going. To my surprise, I thought he'd be doing some running on the sideline."
Now that he's here, Johnson's going to have to temper that desire to get on the field with patience. He won't be playing in this week's game against the Saints, but it looks like he will be playing against the Rams in the final preseason game. Johnson's in shape, but he's got to work himself back into football shape. He's got until the season opener to do it.
"I think it'll take him two weeks," said Edwards. "That's what we talked about last night when we visited on the phone. It's not like he's been sitting around. He's been working out and we talked about it when I was going to camp. I told him to be in shape so when you come in, we can get going. Now he's just going to have to get in football shape and that'll take a couple of weeks. But he'll be OK."
Count quarterback Damon Huard as one of the guys happy to see the starting running back return to the field. Now the team feels complete, and they've got all of their weapons back. For the quarterbacks, that a huge relief.
"Sure, a quarterback's best friend is a great running game and certainly with number 27 back there defenses have to really worry about him," said Huard. "When they do, they usually bring that eighth guy down into the box to stop the run and that's usually when you get your opportunity for the play-action pass and big plays down the field. Having Larry is huge for us and it's certainly good that he's back with as much time as we have to prepare for Houston. We should be on all cylinders come September 9th (season opener)."
And naturally, Johnson's head coach shares those sentiments.
"Now, he can focus in on what he needs to do on the football field," said Edwards. "The other stuff is taken care of. Now he has to play football and go out and play."
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