Any discussion in regard to Chris Johnson involves numbers, whether actual or imagined.
For example, it is almost impossible not to mention 2,006, the number of rushing yards he had in 2009 when he was the NFL’s Offensive Most Valuable Player.
Lately, though, any mention of Johnson includes speculation about what contract numbers are required to get the running back to camp. Tennessee Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt added a little to the discussion Thursday afternoon.
“We're willing to make him the highest paid running back in the history of the NFL,” Reinfeldt told the Associated Press. “That's kind of where we are.”
Yet two weeks into training camp and two days before the preseason opener, Johnson remains elsewhere.
Reinfeldt has maintained since the start of camp that he would not conduct negotiations unless Johnson was in attendance. Last Saturday, he even offered that the franchise would be comfortable if the player attended meetings but did not take part in workouts.
Johnson is entrenched enough in his position that he gave up an accrued year toward free agency earlier this week when he did not report to camp by the league-mandated deadline.
Of course, the type of contract he seeks would negate the need for free agency anytime soon.
"The reality is you hope those players are with you for 10 years and what you don't want to do is destroy a 10-year relationship over a two-week contract negotiation," Reinfeldt said in the AP report. "People get upset at some point, we all come back, we're all family.”
The current standard for running backs belongs to DeAngelo Williams, who signed a five-year, $43 million ($21 million guaranteed) deal with Carolina prior to this season.
Williams has rushed for 4,211 yards and 31 touchdowns in five NFL seasons. Johnson has rushed for 4,598 yards and 34 touchdowns in three seasons.
“As a coach you want him here now,” Mike Munchak said following Thursday’s workout. “… Every player is different … but I assume [Reinfeldt] is doing everything he can to get him in here.”
Reinfeldt was not available to the local media.
Teammates have been widely supportive of Johnson’s efforts to get paid and have expressed no concern about his performance once he does rejoin their ranks.
One in particular summed up that feeling – how else – with a bevy of numbers.
“28 is ready to go 24/7 the days of the week,” wide receiver Kenny Britt said. “He’ll wake up right out of the bed, not stretching and run a 4.1 no problem.
“We’re just hoping he gets here fast.”