Now that Jeff Fisher knows he’ll see Chris Johnson at training camp, the Tennessee Titans’ coach is eager to hear what his All-Pro running back has to say.
“It will be interesting to see where he sets his sights … what goals he sets out there and attempts to achieve,” Fisher said Friday in a pre-training camp press conference. “Last year at this time he wanted to be the MVP and rush for over 2,000 yards. Everybody kind of said, ‘Oh yeah, really? We’ll see what happens.’ It happened.”
The fact that it did (Johnson rushed for a franchise-record 2,006 yards and was named the league’s Offensive Player of the Year) created a lot of drama in recent months.
Johnson skipped all of the team’s voluntary organized team activities (OTAs) as well as its offseason training program because he believed his production in 2009 warranted a substantial increase in his 2010 base salary. That salary was set two years earlier when he signed a five-year contract after having been drafted in the first round (24th overall) out of East Carolina.
He also publicly stated he was prepared to sit out of training camp. That scenario was avoided last week when the sides came together on an agreement that reportedly accelerated the payment of incentive clauses set for the later years of the deal because they already had been met.
“(It was) a very, very difficult situation, considering the circumstances, but I’m very, very pleased that both sides were able to come to a resolution,” Fisher said. “We got creative. We were able to move some things around.
“C.J. is happy. We’re happy. I’m expecting him to be in great shape, come in and really pick up where he left off.”
He’ll also pick up a playbook that has been altered to accommodate some of his specific abilities. The first time he runs some of those wrinkles also will be the first time his teammates get a chance to execute them.
“We’ve got some things offensively that we did not get to install (or) practice during the OTAs because he wasn’t here,” Fisher said. “So we’ll be working on some of these new and creative things for him once we get started.
“… CJ. Is different than the rest of the running backs, so we have our basic, standard offense that was installed once again and reinstalled when (the rookies) got in. Some of the things with C.J. we were unable to do.”
Beginning Saturday, he’ll finally get to see how effective they might be.
Other items addressed by Fisher on Friday:
• The NFL announced Young would not be suspended as a result of an altercation at a Dallas strip club in June, which resulted in a citation for the Titans’ quarterback.
Young met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in New York on Tuesday.
“I was glad that there was a conversation,” Fisher said. “I think that’s very enlightening experience for any player or any coach to go to New York, especially under (such) circumstances. I did talk to Vince and Vince felt very good about the visit.
“I anticipated that this was the decision the commissioner would make. … We’re fortunate that we’ll have (Young) for all 16 games.”
Said Goodell: “I think Vince understands his responsibilities and he has committed to meeting them.”
• Fisher disputed published reports that said the Titans did not attempt to re-sign veteran linebacker Keith Bulluck. The New York Giants signed Bulluck to a one-year deal late last week.
“There was some communication and there was some dialogue that took place,” Fisher said. “… We wish him well. I hope the knee (injury) is behind him. I know it is, and I know he’s going to have a great year.”
• David Thornton (shoulder injury) might start training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list, but Fisher said he expects the veteran linebacker to play in at least one preseason game.
The injury kept Thornton out of all offseason OTAs.
“I’m not prepared to make a decision right now … whether he goes on PUP or not, but I have a much better sense of where he is,” Fisher said. “I’m much, much more encouraged.”
• Linebacker Stephen Tulloch, who sat out all OTAs with his own contract concerns, is expected for the first training camp workout Saturday.
Tulloch entered the offseason as a restricted free agent but signed the one-year tender offer the Titans made him in order to guarantee they maintained his rights.
“I have no reason not to expect Stephen here,” Fisher said. “I have not talked to him. He signed his tender, so I believe it’s resolved.”
• As of Friday afternoon, two draft picks – first-round defensive end Derrick Morgan and third-round wide receiver Damian Williams – remained unsigned.
“It could happen at any time,” Fisher said. “It could happen (Friday) night; it could happen (Saturday). We’re not too awfully concerned with this thing dragging out.”
• The Titans, in conjunction with USA Football, will award $50,000 in grants for football equipment to local organizations. Youth football programs in Bellevue, Donelson-Hermitage, Flatrock, Goodlettsville, Hendersonville and Old Hickey will receive equipment in response to their specific needs.