In contrast to last spring, when he skipped minicamps and OTA sessions, Tennessee tailback Chris Johnson joined his Titans teammates for their voluntary workouts this week, and adopted a diplomatic approach to his desire for a new contract. The NFL's leading rusher over the past three seasons (4,598 yards), and one of only six men in league history to run for 2,000 yards in a campaign, the 2008 first-rounder suggested he is "not worried" about his contract status.
There is no denying the three-year veteran has displayed considerably more maturity this offseason than he did last year. There is also no doubt, league sources emphasized to The Sports Xchange this week that Johnson will not report to the Titans for camp - assuming, of course, there eventually is a camp - until he receives a lucrative, long-term contract. And not the band-aid approach the Titans took last year, when they advanced him most of the escalator money he had earned as part of his original five-year, $12 million contract.
That short-term fix bumped Johnson's base salary from $550,000 to about $2 million. But under the contract he signed in '08, he's still on the books for base salaries of $800,000 in 2011 and $900,000 in 2012. Johnson is playing nice for now, saying all the right things, doing what he needs to do to stay in shape and in touch with his teammates. But unless there's more than just a token bookkeeping maneuver to address is contract grievances in 2011, things could get pretty dicey between the Titans and the man some consider the NFL's best back.
To suggest that Tennessee officials, including first-year coach Mike Munchak, are upset with third-year wide receiver Kenny Britt after the former first-round pick's latest arrest on Wednesday would be understatement.
Said one Titans' official, who said he could not speak for attribution: "We're beyond pissed off with the situation. There will be consequences."
Arrested for the sixth time since joining the Titans in the 2009 draft - this time for alleged evidence tampering, obstruction of a government function and resisting arrest, after he is said to have smashed a cigar containing marijuana when he was stopped for a traffic violation - Britt is expected to face team-issued punishment even before commissioner Roger Goodell take action, the Titans official said.
Noted the team official of Britt, who was arrested in his hometown of Hoboken, N.J.: "It's the same old story. He can't pull himself away from his buddies. That's not to (absolve) him of any blame, but he's got to get away from some people."
Just last week, in fact, Britt's father noted the same thing, saying he hoped his son would get away from New Jersey and go train with his Tennessee teammates for a while. When the lockout ends, the Titans are likely to strong suggest, perhaps even demand, that Britt undergo some sort of counseling. They might even take a page from the Atlanta Falcons' handling of wide receiver Roddy White a few years ago. As noted in this space last week, the Falcons declined to sign White to a new deal until he distanced himself from certain friends who were living at his house.
Once White complied to the satisfaction of Atlanta officials in 2009, the club rewarded him with a new six-year, $50 million contract. Given that Britt is under contract for three more seasons, the Titans can't do exactly the same thing, but there might be some financial moves they consider.
Len Pasquarelli is a Senior NFL Writer for The Sports Xchange. He has covered the NFL for 33 years and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee. His NFL coverage earned recognition as the winner of the McCann Award for distinguished reporting in 2008.
Titans dealing with Johnson, Britt
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