Larry Johnson wants a clean break. From the Chiefs, and from Kansas City.
The running back cleared the air on a number of topics in a wide-ranging interview with KCSP 610 Sports Radio on Wednesday, reiterating he wants to play elsewhere next season but also saying that he ultimately would be open-minded to returning if the circumstances dictated.
“I’d rather just play somewhere else,” Johnson told the station. “This is a rebuilding team. I dont’ really think that I belong on this rebuilding team. It’s just the way the league works. I’ve done what I’ve done for Kansas City. I’m not getting no younger, and the team is getting younger. So I’m not sure I fit in the scheme of things. I never felt like I was in the scheme of things anyways. Everyone wants to do it the hard way, or you can do it the easy way.”
Johnson’s comments aren’t new. He said as much following the Chiefs’ season-ending 16-6 loss to the Bengals.
But Johnson did elaborate on his stance that he’s not a fit in the Kansas City community, saying he “doesn’t really fit in.” He’s heard the boos when out at sporting events or in public, and instead of complaining or pointing fingers, says it’s just time to move on.
“That’s Kansas City,” Johnson said. “The rumor mill builds, and the jealousy, and the envy, starts. You feel trapped. At one point I didn’t even want to leave my house.”
Johnson, who signed a five-year contract extension before the 2007 season, often contradicted himself during the 23-minute interview in which he says the problem is within the Chiefs organization. He said he had no problem with former GM Carl Peterson — Peterson was “not the problem” — or former coach Herm Edwards. He also has not spoken with Edwards since the end of the season, or new GM Scott Pioli.
If the Chiefs are unable or unwilling to trade or release Johnson, he said he would return. He believes he still has the respect of the Chiefs locker room and shouldn’t be viewed as a cancer to the team. Hindering his willingness to return is his belief the next head coach won’t give him a fair shake, and he’ll be viewed as a problem from the start.
Without naming names inside the organization, Johnson’s reaction to a question about how the situation had deteriorated to its current point, may show his true frustration.
“People don’t understand, they’ve been trying to trade me ever since I came here,” Johnson said. “Even when Dick Vermeil was coach, they tried to trade me to Tampa Bay. When I did good, two years after my deal, they’re trying … they want to use me as trade bait. Now, after a year in playing in my deal, they turn around and try to trade me again. They put me on the trade [block] along with Tony Gonzalez. … Like all businesses and personal relationships, there’s a certain type of code of ethics on how to do things. That’s why, ever since I came to Kansas City, they’ve tried to push me out the door. They’ve tried to trade me ever since i got there.”
Johnson, whose multiple off-field incidents led to being deactivated for three games by the Chiefs and a one-game suspension by the NFL for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, scoffed at the label he is misunderstood.
“My situation is totally different than everyone else’s situation,” Johnson said. “The way I am is totally different. I can’t blame [the fans] for incidents that went on that I can’t sway their opinion. At the same time, I did what I did, I apologized to everybody, but it feels like it had no effect. So there’s no sense in me trying to fight an uphill battle. You do what you have to do, break ties, and start all over from scratch.”
Johnson, who made it clear his frustration doesn’t stem from losing, and that he would rather contribute and lose than not be able to contribute, doesn’t believe he owes the Chiefs loyalty aftering signing the long-term deal.
“There’s no loyalty in this game,” Johnson said. “That’s one thing I’ve learned. There’s no such thing as loyalty.”