If Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans turns out to be Chris Johnson’s last for the Tennessee Titans, he can leave saying he’s done just about all he could.
His production has dipped during the second half of his six years with the franchise. His attendance has not.
“His health, the durability of showing up every Sunday – people take that for granted,” coach Mike Munchak said. “This guy practices every day, hasn’t missed a game since he has been here. We always talk about injuries, ‘Man, this guy was hurt, that guy was hurt,’ CJ has been very fortunate that way [with] how he handles his health, how a guy his size handles a lot of abuse every Sunday.
“I think that’s more of an accomplishment because that means he shows up every Sunday every year to do his job. That’s something to be proud of as a running back.”
Since being drafted 24th overall in 2008, Johnson (5-foot-11, 203 pounds) has missed just one game. He was held out of the final contest of his rookie season because the Titans already had clinched the division title and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.
Currently, he leads all active NFL running backs in consecutive appearances. In fact, his streak of 79 games is a full season longer than the next back and two full seasons longer than the next full-time starter.
CONSECUTIVE GAMES PLAYED
NFL running backs
Chris Johnson, Tennessee 79
Anthony Dixon, San Francisco 63
Jacquizz Rodgers, Atlanta 47
Frank Gore, San Francisco 47
Danny Woodhead, San Diego 42
Marshawn Lynch, Seattle 41
“I take a lot of pride in that,” Johnson said. “I’m not going to lie and say I don’t [get] hurt a lot. I just play through it. As long as you can have your body ready to play on Sunday you can make it through.”
He said a knee injury in 2010 was the biggest threat to his continuity.
By comparison, Houston will have its fourth different running back this season (the third in as many weeks) Sunday.
“CJ shows up every week,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “He’s practiced the whole year. The most impressive thing to me about CJ, outside of the speed, is that – a smaller back practices and takes the beating like he does.”
With one game remaining, Johnson has yet to reach 1,000 yards rushing and his 3.8 yards per carry average is the lowest of his career. He has scored five rushing touchdowns, one more than his career-low, and his longest run has been 30 yards.
Those numbers are more troubling given that his salary for this season is $10 million and for each of the next two he is scheduled to earn $8 million. His current deal runs through 2016.
“I’ve been here for so long and I love it here,” Johnson said. “It’s been great here since I was drafted here. … I think it will be sad on both parts [to be cut], but from being in the league so long I have [come] to understand there’s a business side to this.
“…At the end of the day I’ve had a great time here and I appreciate all they have done for me. It’s nothing that I’m really thinking about right now. I’m just trying to get a victory on Sunday.”