So, this Turkey tends to follow the machinations of PSU alumni in the NFL with bated interest. I suppose that the success of former Nittany Lions in the NFL is an appropriate penile prosthesis for one who never played the game and it can serve as validation of sorts for the so-called program. Today’s subject is one of the most successful of our program’s effluvia ever to land in the NFL, and predictably in today’s NFL “mo’ money” climate, he’s holding out for—mo’ money. Yes, my fellow Penn State fans, Larry Johnson holdeth out.
Rumor has it that ol’ Lar’ is looking for $28 million. He’s coming off a bang-up season for the Kansas City Chiefs in which his head coach, Herman Edwards, decided that Larry would be the go-to guy. I say bang-up purposefully, because Johnson carried the ball over 400 times behind a less than spectacular offensive line. Thus, he has to be banged-up.
Furthermore, the withering effect of that number of carries year-in and year-out is well documented by example in the NFL. Does anyone remember Earl Campbell? Of course you do. Earl Campbell can barely walk today and he sometimes must rely on a wheel chair. Earl was a punishing runner who in his heyday carried the ball about 360 times per season. Other examples exist, but I’ll spare you the misery. Suffice to say that the average career length for an NFL feature back is about the number of years “Gran-mama” already has been in the NFL.
But, you see, that’s the crux. If Larry can’t get the money he wants now, his value is bound to decline. Coming off a smashing season and two consecutive Pro Bowl appearances, his saleability must be at its zenith. He knows it, his agent knows it, and the Chiefs know it. The question is whether the Chiefs think they can get $28 million worth from him in how ever many years his knees have left.
The current rumor is that Johnson, who has vowed not to attend Chiefs training camp unless a deal is cut, will be traded to the Green Bay Packers for first and second round draft picks. This might make great sense to the Chiefs who are (or should be) in a rebuilding phase, given their reliance on veteran talent. Whether this would be a good move for Larry is moot: it would suck. Ask Brett Favre about the offensive line at Green Bay. But it’s better than making music videos with Fantasia.
Herman Edwards spoke to the press obliquely about the subject at the opening of training camp:
My mind-set is very simple. At the end of the year offensively, my goal is â€¦ that you want to run the ball for 2,000 yards total. Whether you have one runner who can do it, three runners, four runners, two runners, it doesnâ€™t matter. You have to understand that. Then, from there, your passing game evolves.
Yeah, Edwards likes to run the ball. That was a great boon to Larry Johnson after playing second fiddle to the passing game during the Dick Vermeil era. However, Edwards seems to be saying that he’s not married to LJ.
Another interesting—perhaps bizarre—related issue is the appearance of Priest Holmes at the Kansas City training camp. Holmes, who suffered much downtime due to injuries as the KC feature back, was eventually replaced as starter by Johnson in 2005. It remains to be seen what Holmes can do for the Chiefs other than be a subtle reminder to Johnson that he can be replaced. But not really. Doctors have told Holmes that because of his head and neck trauma he suffered before being carted off the field in San Diego in 2005, there is still a chance that a jarring hit could lead to paralysis. No one—aside from Holmes himself—sees him as a potential starter again. He is still on the “physically unable to perform” list and the Chiefs are taking it easy with him.
This Turkey hates to see the money-grabbing that is the way of life in the NFL. However, it is part of the game and has been for many years. Gone are the days when guys like Unitas played for $250 a game. This is big business now—huge business—and I’m all for capitalism. The market will determine LJ’s value and this market is comprised of smarter people than all the bloggers and fantasy players who think they know what they’re talking about but don’t know their asses from their elbows, and that includes The Nittany Turkey.
But what I can say is that Johnson is alienating fans. In spite of a couple of anomalously benificent behavioral data points (perhaps concocted by the Chiefs’ PR machine), Larry has acted like a spoiled child since joining the Chiefs. He has dissed “old coaches,” referring to Vermeil and his college coach, Joe Paterno. He has asserted his prerogative to be “the man.” Well, Larry, you want to be “the man?” Start acting like one. But I digress.
It gets mighty cold in the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.