Chiefs don’t plan on Priest


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Jan 22, 2006
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Posted on Wed, Mar. 29, 2006

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Chiefs don’t plan on Priest
Edwards says Johnson will be the starter
The Kansas City Star

ORLANDO, Fla. — Herm Edwards was in a storytelling mood during an interview session Tuesday at the NFL meetings, joking at one point about Larry Johnson’s fondness for running over defenders rather than around them.

Then Edwards, the Chiefs’ coach, turned serious for a moment.

“Playing for 16 games,” Edwards said, “will teach him that he can’t do that all the time.”

Johnson might need to learn that lesson and a few others about surviving a full season as the Chiefs’ featured back. The Chiefs appear to be preparing for life without Priest Holmes, whose midseason neck trauma last year allowed Johnson the opportunity to have one of the most spectacular rushing half-seasons in NFL history.

The Chiefs haven’t given up on a return from Holmes. But one month before the draft and seven weeks before the first offseason practice, the Chiefs still have nothing definitive on Holmes or from him.

“It’s a very slow process,” Edwards said. “He’s just kind of laying low. I’ve talked to him once, basically when I first got the job. At that point, he anticipated coming back. I don’t know where it stands at this point.

“He’s taking his time in figuring out what to do. There’s no rush. There’s no deadline when he has to make a decision, but it’s his decision to make.”

President/general manager Carl Peterson said he doesn’t expect Holmes to participate in a three-day May minicamp or any of the 13 other offseason practices scheduled for May and June.

“There were other times when people tried to count him out and then he shocked and surprised everybody, so it’s too early to say,” Peterson said. “I would just say right now, if he had to start the football season, he couldn’t because the doctors have not cleared him for contact. But we don’t have to start right now. We’ll see where we are in June or July.”

In one of his first moves as Chiefs coach, Edwards told Johnson he would be the starting halfback regardless of Holmes’ availability. But no Holmes would mean all Johnson all the time, just as it was for last season’s last nine games.

In those games, Johnson never failed to top 100 yards and twice went over 200. He totaled 1,351 yards and scored 16 touchdowns in those games, a pace that over a full season would have blown him by the NFL records.

The Chiefs are, like everyone else, wondering, what if?

“We’re going to find out,” Edwards said. “That’s going to be the key for him. All of a sudden it’s not (nine) games, it’s 16 games. How’s he going to react to that? He’ll react to it well. He’s got a bull’s-eye on his chest now. He’s not going to sneak up on anybody. It will be a whole different deal. He starts from the beginning. (Nine)-game pounding (versus a) 16-game pounding. There’s a difference.

“That’s what you like about the kid. He always feels he has something to prove. This year, he’s probably going to try to prove to everybody that he’s not a flash-in-the-pan back, that he’s not (nine) games and go to the Pro Bowl.”

Not all backs like the pressure of constant expectations and the burden of carrying an offense. Johnson, often angry at his lack of playing time earlier in his career, does enjoy it.

He will have to learn to adjust and compensate physically. But Johnson showed not the slightest bit of wear and tear in the season’s final moments last season. He finished with a 201-yard, three-touchdown game against Cincinnati.

“I would assume the number of games and carries he might get would not have any negative effect on him because he’s such a big, strong, physical guy,” San Diego coach Marty Schottenheimer said.

Edwards seemed to be stumped about what to do with Holmes if he does play. He had a similar situation while coaching the Jets with young LaMont Jordan and veteran Curtis Martin.

“It’s always hard to do to try to play two running backs,” Edwards said. “That was the problem we kind of ran into when we had LaMont and Curtis. Curtis was a guy that needed 22, 23 (carries) before he got going. And then you get the question they always ask is why you didn’t get the (other) guy in the game. You don’t have enough plays. You try to work it out. What we started doing with LaMont, the third series, he’s going in the game regardless of what happens.

“We haven’t talked about it as a staff, but if that comes about, that’s what we’d have to do, make a decision that he’s going into the game in this part of the game. He’d have a package built around him. He’d be a good change-of-pace runner for us.”

But Edwards will clearly lean on Johnson no matter what happens with Holmes. Edwards have plans for the Chiefs’ running game that depend on the presence of a bigger, physical runner like Johnson.

“If you see a change (on offense), it will probably be how we play the game as far as using the clock to our advantage when we’re ahead,” Edwards said. “We might run the ball by the end of the game maybe 10 more times than we throw the ball. That would help the defense.

“At times it will look a little bit boring. If you’ve got a 14-point lead and they kick a field goal and all of a sudden the game is kind of tight and you’re supposed to open your offense back up? I don’t know about that. When you have the lead and you can run the ball, you own the clock. We have the type of runner that can do that. We have an offensive line that is pretty solid.”
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