HBO’s Hard Knocks Gets Another Character: Larry Johnson Gets His New Contract

(Philadelphia, Pa) — Just when the Chiefs (0-2 and struggling in pre-season) looked like they were going into the season with Michael Bennett, rookie Kolby Smith, recovering Priest Holmes and others at the running back position, they got a lift. The Chiefs announced that holdout running back Larry Johnson agreed to a six-year deal including a $19 million guarantee and joined the Kansas City Chiefs in front of the Hard Knocks cameras at practice on Tuesday. By ending a holdout that got acrimonious at times between Johnson, Chiefs GM Carl Peterson, and the Hunt Family, the Chiefs assured themselves that their workhorse would be on the field for their opener September 9th at the Houston Texans.

Johnson donning his #27 jersey surprised his teammates 45 minutes into practice and returned to chants of “Lar-ry! Lar-ry”. The dollars that Johnson signed for were not as much as the $21 Million guaranteed that LT got, but the Chiefs star wanted to be back with his teammates. One of the first things that Johnson had to do was sign a check for the 25 days he missed at $19,280 per day, meaning the holdout cost him about $357,000.

I have to give credit to Peterson and the Chiefs for giving Johnson such a large deal at age 27 and coming off an NFL record 416 carries last year while rushing for 1,789 yards. Running backs tend to slow down in their late 20’s and recent history has shown that next seasons have been injury riddled and non-productive for backs that have topped the 380 carry mark (Jamal Lewis in ‘03, Terrell Davis ‘98, and Jamal Anderson ’98).

During his holdout, Johnson was working out at a facility in Arizona and appeared to be in good shape. But you will never know how will respond after being away from the game for most of camp. Coach Herm Edwards said Johnson would not play in Thursday night’s exhibition game against New Orleans but would be fully ready by the season opener. Edwards said “He has about two weeks now (to get ready). We’ll see where we’re at. We’ll see where he’s at”. He added “We talked last night. He knows what I expect out of him. He needs to get his legs up underneath him. He’ll have enough time for that.”

The running game has been anemic to be nice this preseason as Bennett and Smith have not played well enough to make anyone forget Johnson. In their recent 11-10 loss to the Dolphins, the Chiefs rushed for only 61 yards even though the Dolphins held out several of their defensive starters.

After sitting behind Holmes in 2003 and 2004, LJ responded with two 1700 yard plus seasons and 37 TD’s on the ground. In his five year career Johnson has appeared in 48 games with 4205 yards rushing, a 4.7 yards per carry average, and 47 TD’s.

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