This time last year, Chris Johnson was a guy that was looking to get paid.
He was coming off of another strong year (1364 yards, 11 TDs) and felt that he needed to be compensated better for his services.
The holdout worked and CJ got his money, but the production was less than expected. CJ looked like he was missing a gear and was not in sync with the team all year as he struggled to reach 1,000 yards. Some began to think that CJ had tanked it and that the Titans had been swindled by him.
Fans began to show their disdain for him throughout the holdout and the season by criticizing and booing at any chance possible.
And it was understandable their feelings because of the precedent he had set forth in previous seasons. Going into this off-season, CJ had some work to do and a lot to prove.
Johnson usually travels back home to Orlando to train in his off-seasons, preferring the heat of Florida over the Tennessee heat and the camaraderie of his teammates. This year, instead of going back to Florida, he stayed in Tennessee and attended training sessions with his teammates.
When asked about why he stayed in Tennessee this off-season, Chris said that it was important for him to be around the team and become a leader. I could not agree more. After all, he is very highly paid and that is to be expected of one of your highest paid players (not to mention there was an attendance close in his new contract.)
Another thing Johnson did this off-season was bury himself in the weight room. He gained eight pounds of muscle with strength coach Steve Watterson. This additional muscle should give him even more capacity to take on the bumps and bruises that come along with the season and allow him more strength to finish the tough runs.
CJ did all the things that a leader and one of your best players should do, but the biggest difference you can see and hear in him is his level of humility. While being interviewed during the Tampa Bay preseason game, Johnson said that last year humbled him.
He said that he thought that he could just come in and pick up where he left off, and he thought wrong. I think admitting this was one of the best things that could have happened to him. The flounder of 2011 allowed him to have a moment of clarity and a moment of refocus.
Because of Johnson’s dedication to the team, dedication to the weight room and his more humble demeanor coming into this year, I believe that he is ready to put last year in the rear view mirror. We will see more of CJ2K than the CJ of 2011. This team will go as far as his legs will take them.
After all, the Titans are going with a second-year quarterback in Jake Locker and head coach Mike Munchak and line coach Bruce Matthews, former offensive linemen in the NFL, are assuredly eager to do better on the ground as a team than they did last year. I hope you are ready Titans fans. CJ2K is about to carry the team back into the playoff race this year. He is ready to prove that last year was an aberration.