DeAngelo Williams sees real similarities between his situation and that of Chris Johnson.
In particular, the running backs entered this season with enhanced expectations in the wake of significant new contracts. In late July, Williams agreed to a five-year, $43 million deal, with $21 million guaranteed with the Carolina Panthers. It was roughly a month later that Johnson topped that with a six-year, $56 million pact, with $30 million guaranteed.
Throughout it all, though, Johnson, the Tennessee Titans back, saw one major difference.
“We always felt like we [were] in a different category than what he was because throughout his whole career he was pretty much sharing carries with the other back,” Johnson said. “So we were kind of in a different situation than he was.”
Halfway through their respective seasons, neither has lived up to the standards most felt were established with their contracts as they prepare to face off Sunday in Carolina (noon, CBS). It hardly will be their first meeting — they saw each other in college when Johnson was at East Carolina and Williams was at Memphis.
Williams, who averaged more than 1,300 yards in 2008 and 2009 before he missed 10 games last fall with an injury, has just 363 yards and one touchdown on 75 carries. The Panthers’ other running back, Jonathan Stewart has run it 71 times for 327 yards with two touchdowns.
Johnson has gotten the bulk of the carries for Tennessee (121), but has gained just 366 yards and scored one touchdown.
“It’s a love/hate relationship — they love you when you are doing good, and they hate you are doing bad instead of the other way around when they should pick you up when you are doing bad and hate you when you are doing good because that just drives you to get better,” Williams said. “… with more money comes more responsibility. They expect you to come out and be and do things that you have never done before in your life in terms of they want you to come out and they want you to basically be on the field by yourself and score every time you touch the ball or pick up a first down, but they fail to realize that other people get paid too.”
Both backs said they have spoken in recent weeks and commiserated on their respective situations — both of which include new head coaches and some differences in the offensive schemes.
“For [Johnson] missing all of the offseason, all the preseason and then to jump into that offense with [Mike] Heimerdinger being gone, all of the things that have been thrown at him I think he is doing a great job at what he is doing now,” Williams said. “I know he is only going to get better. … I was dealing with the same thing early on, and then people found out that it’s a different offense and you just have to find your way and find your niche in the different offense.
“I think we found ours here.”
That’s one notable difference between the two.
• Defensive end Dave Ball (concussion), tight end Jared Cook (knee), fullback Ahmard Hall (back), quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (knee), linebacker Barrett Ruud (groin) and wide receiver Nate Washington (hip) did not practice.
Ball’s situation was considered the most serious. The others all were expected to practice before the end of the week.
Safety Chris Hope, who has not played since Oct. 2, did practice.
“We will see how [Hope] does [Thursday] and how his body responds to being on the field two or three days in a row and determine how much he can help us on Sunday,” coach Mike Munchak said.