If you have fantasy jitters about starting running back Larry Johnson of the Chiefs in week one vs the Texans, this won’t make you feel any better. Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards said on Tuesday at his press conference that Johnson might be held back a bit in the early weeks of the season, including week one. “He’s going to be on a little bit of a leash early. He carried the ball two or three times in St. Louis. So he has to get his legs underneath him,” Edwards said. “Michael Bennett is healthy and that’s good; it gives us another runner. We feel very comfortable with the runners we have. It’s not all on LJ. It’s tough on one guy and he did a yeoman’s job last year.”
Johnson said himself last week that after his holdout that he might not be totally ready to go week one down in Houston vs the Texans, and now that Edwards has confirmed that, you have to wonder how serious the coach is about sitting his star back a bit to save him for the tough part of the season. “He’s back, signed a big contract, now he’s not going to get the ball as much,” Edwards said. “The first thing he’s going to do is come to my office after the third game and ask, â€˜why am I not getting the ball?’ That’s the question you [media] will be asking after week four: â€˜why won’t you give Larry the ball more?’ Oh really, last year you said we gave him the ball too much last year. He’ll get the ball.”
Johnson was a workhorse last season, as he produced a team-record 416 carries for 1,789 yards (4.3 avg.) with 17 TDs and 41 catches for 410 yards (10.0 avg.) with two TDs. Edwards knows that putting that type of load on him again in 2007 will make him prone to injuries, and that the rest of the team, including Bennett, has to be able to spell him at some points. “He’s got his legs underneath him and now more confident in his offense. We know more about Michael Bennett than we did when he first arrived in training camp and got nicked and couldn’t play a lot,” Edwards said. “Then he got nicked again and it was one of those deals. I think we saw a little glimpse of him Thanksgiving against Denver last year; you saw what he could bring to the table.”
Then again, if you drafted Johnson with one of the first 2-3 picks of the draft, you don’t like to hear that Bennett is going to take carries away from your star back. Sorry to say, unless they are playing mind games, that is exactly what appears to be what is happening in 2007 in KC.