Those who believe the Tennessee Titans should pay Chris Johnson his mega-contract, be done with it and get the star running back in camp have been critical of the way general manager Mike Reinfeldt has handled the negotiations.
But Reinfeldt has at least one backer in his corner, and it is a backer that counts for much – Titans owner Bud Adams.
The Tennessee Titans still have not made an offer, even though Reinfeldt said he nearly two weeks ago was willing to make Johnson the highest-paid running back in NFL history.
Since that time, the sides still have not done any meaningful negotiating, and no offer has been forthcoming from the Titans to Johnson.
Adams is fine with that stance, especially since Johnson's current contract has two more years to run, and the fact that Johnson has stayed away from camp since it opened on July 30.
“I'm not gonna make any offer with the way he's acting. Life's too short,” Adams said.
While it appears the Titans are standing firm in their stance, indications are that Johnson's camp has dug in their heels as well in their demands. The possibility of the stalemate lasting into the regular season is becoming more likely each day.
“That could be, but that's his decision. He's got to make that. I'm not going to interfere. If he doesn't want to come in and play, then he doesn't want to come in and play,” Adams said.
Meanwhile, Titans head coach Mike Munchak said the time is drawing nigh that the team needs to get Johnson into camp in order to get him ready for the start of the season.
"We just want him in here, so Chris Palmer can get used to how to use him. Chris has never worked with him, so that's the hard part. I think the longer it goes until game week, and go, 'OK, here's how we're going to use him.' I think Chris has to figure out how to use him by having him here," Munchak said. "I think it reaches a point - we're three weeks away from starting - that it's getting to be important that we get this thing worked out. As coaches, we don't have any control over all that, but you get anxious because we're trying to make decisions on how we move forward."
As he told TitanInsider two weeks ago, Adams says he will not step into the negotiation process and fully backs his GM.
“No, I'm leaving that up to Mike Reinfeldt to work that out,” Adams said. “(Johnson) has got two years on his contract right now. Now, he wants more money, I guess, but he can be fined ($30,000 per day) for not reporting. You add all that up and it's a pretty good bit.”
Speaking of a pretty good bit, the Larry Fitzgerald contract with the Arizona Cardinals (eight years, $120 million with $50 million guaranteed) will certainly complicate matters for the Titans in terms of money.
Johnson's camp was already looking for “playmaker” money, far beyond the $21 million guaranteed ($43 million total) forked over by the Carolina Panthers to running back DeAngelo Williams at the start of training camp that made Williams arguably the highest paid running back in the league. Adrian Peterson is making $10.72 million in base salary in the final year of his rookie deal, and Steven Jackson of the St. Louis Rams has a deal that is close in terms of overall pay to what Williams signed.
But Johnson and his agent Joel Segal are looking for more than that, wanting Johnson to be compensated more on his big-play abilities and less in line with the pay scale of the position he plays. Segal could not be reached for comment.
"We want him here. We know we need him to be part of this thing for us to reach our goals," Munchak said. "I think it is encouraging for him to see what we're going to do some great things this year in the run game and we want him to be a big part of that."
Adams was also holding out hope that the matter will be resolved, but, like Reinfeldt, is sticking to his guns.
“I'm just hoping he'll come on in and start playing for us. But I don't know, it doesn't look like it. I'm not interfering with them,” Adams said. “They've got it worked out on the basis that they want to work it out. I'm behind them all the way. They're (Johnson's side) not getting any results out of his not showing up, though.”
Adams lay some of the blame on the situation at Segal.
“These agents sometimes get carried away and don't really tell the player what their position is. Players usually leave it up to them to get it done, but sometimes they make mistakes with what they tell them,” Adams said. “It's hard for me to believe that he wouldn't want to come in and start playing. I hope that he will make his mind up here pretty quick, because this $30,000 a day can start adding up pretty quickly.”
As of Sunday, Johnson had missed 23 days of camp.