As the Tennessee Titans prepare to close out the 2013 season on Sunday against the Houston Texans, there are plenty who are wondering if it will also be the swan song for Chris Johnson in a Titans uniform.
Johnson is finishing his sixth season as a Titan, but there has been speculation that he won't be back for a seventh season in Tennessee, unless he is willing to greatly reduce the $8 million salary he is due in 2014.
Johnson said Thursday that he wouldn't be inclined to reduce his salary just to stay in Tennessee.
"It's a business side of this. If they have to go there, then that's the way it'll have to be," Johnson said. "I don't think I'd be out of work long."
You could hardly blame the Titans if they parted ways with Johnson at his current price and given his current production. CJ has 950 yards this season, meaning he is just 50 yards short of rushing for 1,000 yards for the sixth straight season.
But Johnson would have to run for 98 yards Sunday - he has better than done that just once this year - to avoid having his worst rushing season since joining the Titans as a first-round pick in 2008. That came in 2011 after Johnson held out and received a $53 million extension from the club.
This was supposed to be the year that Johnson bounced back after the Titans made drastic changes to the offensive line with the additions of Andy Levitre, Chance Warmack and Brian Schwenkie among others on the offensive line. But it hasn't happened.
"We've had some mistakes and other small things that have caused the running game not to be successful, not just early in the season, but there have been a lot of games where we haven't been on the same page, and that's why we haven't been successful," Johnson said of the Titans' problems running the football.
Still, getting Johnson to the 1,000-yard plateau, even if it marks the end of his Titans' tenure, is something that is special to the club, especially since there are no playoffs for Tennessee for the fifth straight year.
"I would think with 50 yards away if that’s where he’s at that there would be a great opportunity for him to do that this weekend," Titans coach Mike Munchak said. "I think you want to win number one, and you like to have guys accomplish things that do mean something. I think it does. 1,000 yards people say, ‘Well, it’s not what it used to be.’
"You know what, when it’s year after year and you show up, that means you’re showing durability, coming to the game, come in and take care of yourself. Every year is not going to be what you want it to be. There’s always a lot of reasons why things don’t work out the way you hoped. He’s a kid that plays every Sunday, takes the hits, keeps coming, doesn’t miss anything. I think it’s a great accomplishment for him to continue. It would be nice to say he got over 1,000 yards again. "
As for what the future might hold for Johnson, he claims the matter hasn't really crossed his mind yet, even though Sunday could end his six-year run in Tennessee.
"I haven't really thought about it yet. It's really out of my hands," Johnson said. "I've had a great time here, and at the end of the day, it's nothing that I'm
really thinking about right now. I'm just trying to get a victory over Sunday."
Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey missed a second straight day with his injured ankle suffered against the Jaguars on Sunday. Coach Mike Munchak said he expects Casey to practice Friday and play on Sunday against the Texans.
Tackle David Stewart has effectively been shut down for the final two weeks of the season with a shoulder injury. He didn't play last week in Jacksonville and will likely give way to Byron Stingily again on Sunday in the season finale.
Linebacker Zach Brown missed Thursday's practice with an illness, but should be back Friday and is expected to play Sunday.