published Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Titans want Chris Johnson return

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NASHVILLE -- Coach Mike Munchak is hoping the Titans soon work out a deal with Chris Johnson so the running back can get back to work and bolster a running game that is showing early promise.

"We're three weeks away from starting ... it's getting to be important that we get this thing worked out," Munchak said Sunday. "As coaches, we don't have any control over all that. But you get anxious. You're trying to make decisions on how we move forward so we're all hoping it's done soon so we can move forward and quit having to do these kind of questions."

The Titans open the season Sept. 11 at Jacksonville, and Munchak, a Hall of Fame offensive lineman, is making it clear that whatever Tennessee does offensively will develop from the running game.

Tennessee rolled up 198 yards rushing in a 17-16 loss at St. Louis on Saturday night without Johnson. Rookie Jamie Harper started in place of Johnson's backup, Javon Ringer, and the fourth-round pick from Clemson ran 11 times for 83 yards and a touchdown.

Stafon Johnson added 68 yards rushing and the Titans outgained the Rams 198-44 on the ground.

Munchak said the Titans aren't going to entertain trade offers for Johnson, a three-time Pro Bowl running back who has the most yards rushing of any NFL back over the past three seasons. The coach also doesn't agree that the Titans picked up negotiating leverage with how well they ran the ball through some big holes without Johnson.

"I could easily stand here and say CJ would've scored on three of those," Munchak said. "I don't know if he would have, but with his speed coming through there ... We're lucky we had guys who stepped up."

Johnson's holdout started when he didn't report to training camp with the rest of the Titans on July 29. General manager Mike Reinfeldt told The Associated Press on Aug. 11 that they were willing to make Johnson the highest-paid running back in the history of the NFL.

Johnson, who is due to earn more than $1 million in 2011 in the fourth year of his five-year contract, tweeted "god is good" to Larry Fitzgerald on Saturday night after news broke about the Arizona receiver's deal worth up to $120 million.

If Johnson and his agent Joel Segal are counting on Bud Adams to speed up the process, the Titans owner said Sunday that with two years left on the running back's contract he backs Reinfeldt.

"I'm not gonna make any offer with the way he's acting. Life's too short," Adams told TitanInsider.

The Titans (1-1) settled for two field goals after reaching the Rams' 6 and 5 in the first half, and the offense failed to score on two long drives in the preseason opener. Munchak said mistakes that led to drives stalling can be fixed.

Munchak, promoted to head coach in February, pointed out how valuable Johnson is to Tennessee and yet tried to sell the running back on what he's missing out on in the team's new offensive approach.

"We need him here to be part of this thing for us to reach our goals. I think it's encouraging for him to see that we're going to do some great things in the running game, and we want him to be a big part of that," Munchak said.

He noted how the offensive line, tight ends and receivers are fully committed to blocking in the run game and predicts "great things this year." That's bold talk considering Johnson ran for 2,006 yards in 2008, just the sixth man in NFL history to go over 2,000 yards.

"He's going have the chance to be part of something maybe better than he has been part of before," Munchak said.

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