KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Running back Larry Johnson will sit out Kansas City's game against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday for violating team rules, a potentially crippling blow for a struggling young offense facing the NFL's last unbeaten team.
Coach Herm Edwards refused to specify what team rules the two-time Pro Bowler broke. But Edwards did say his decision had nothing to do with the charge of simple assault filed against Johnson this week.
Johnson, 28, has rushed for 417 yards and three touchdowns as the rookie-laden Chiefs try to find their way through the first year of a top-to-bottom rebuilding project. He gained 198 yards against Denver on Sept. 28, the only victory the Chiefs (1-4) have this season. The Titans (5-0) come in with a defense ranked fifth overall and are giving up only 95.8 yards rushing.
"Any time you're missing a good player ... I think it always hurts you," Edwards said. "But you see other players elevate their game, too."
Johnson was not in the locker room Thursday when reporters were admitted.
Kolby Smith, who had 407 yards on 112 carries last year when Johnson missed the last eight games with a foot injury, will probably start. Also certain to see plenty of action will be rookie Jamaal Charles, a third-round pick out of Texas who has carried 21 times for 98 yards.
"I'm not going to give out the plan of what we're trying to do," Edwards said. "They (Tennessee) are good enough without knowing what we're trying to do. Now they know Larry's not playing. That's already a bit of a disadvantage. But that's OK."
A 26-year-old woman accused Johnson of pushing the side of her head with an open hand at the Grand Emporium Saloon on Feb. 24, telling her "don't touch me" as he made his way through the club. He has a court date in December.
Edwards said Johnson, who missed training camp last year in a holdout and then missed the second half of the season with an injury, was maintaining a positive attitude.
"This is the first time it's happened to him, and hopefully it's going to be the last time," Edwards said. "Hopefully it's going to be the last time I have to do it with anybody on this football team. I had to do it one time (as head coach of the New York Jets) in five years. I hope it never has to happen again."
Edwards specified that Johnson is being deactivated, not suspended. Suspension means a player is not paid for that week and cannot practice.
But his absence is certain to deal a blow to a struggling, youthful team that had been excited at the return of starting quarterback Brodie Croyle. Out the past four games with a shoulder injury, Croyle will start against the Titans.
"You just have to look at it as the next football game," said Croyle. "We've got two good young guys that are very capable of getting the job done and very eager about the opportunity."
Edwards did not deny the Chiefs are weakened by removing Johnson, who rushed for more than 1,700 yards in both 2005 and 2006 and has gone over 100 yards in two of his last three starts. When he goes over 100 yards at home, the Chiefs are 15-1.
"Now this gives other players a great opportunity to play," Edwards said. "More than they probably anticipated they were going to play. Jamaal hasn't played a whole lot in first-down situations. He's another guy we've drafted and we like."
Center Rudy Niswanger said the offensive line will block the same, regardless of who's running behind it.
Johnson is "a Pro Bowl-caliber player, but we've also got some other talented running backs," Niswanger said. "They're going to get their shot. Us guys up front, we're basically blind back there to who's carrying the ball. Whoever's back there, I'm sure they'll do well."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press