Running back Larry Johnson, who used a gay slur twice within a 24-hour period and has a history of poor behavior, received what amounts to a one-game suspension from the Kansas City Chiefs on Wednesday night.
In a three-sentence release, the Chiefs said Johnson would be suspended from the team until Monday, Nov. 9. The Chiefs are on their bye week and will not play again until traveling to Jacksonville for a Nov. 8 game against the Jaguars.
Peter Schaffer, Johnson's agent, told NFL Network's Jason La Canfora that he already has been in contact with union officials and will appeal the suspension. Schaffer is hoping for a ruling from an independent arbitrator in the matter before Johnson, who stands to lose two paychecks (or roughly $560,000), would miss any playing time.
Schaffer contends that this suspension is "unwarranted under the circumstances" and said Johnson doesn't want to miss any playing time. Schaffer also noted that Johnson already had issued a public apology before the suspension was issued and said "we respect the Chiefs' right" to impose discipline, but "we disagree that the Chiefs' proposed penalty is warranted by Larry's actions."
Ultimately, the Chiefs could elect to release Johnson, who's averaging just 2.7 yards per carry this season. His $4.5 million salary for this season is guaranteed, but he's set to make $5 million next season, not including a $2 million roster bonus. That likely means Johnson isn't in the Chiefs' long-term plans.
Chiefs coach Todd Haley and first-year general manager Scott Pioli have repeatedly said they are trying to build a new culture and a new attitude for a struggling franchise that has sunk to the bottom of the NFL and disloyalty will not be tolerated.
A two-time Pro Bowler who needs just 75 rushing yards to break the Chiefs' career record, Johnson first used the gay slur on his Twitter account during an exchange with one of his followers Sunday night. Earlier, he had posted comments calling Haley's qualifications into question.
Then in a whispered remark Monday after telling reporters in the locker room that he wasn't talking, Johnson repeated the slur, according to the Kansas City Star, which has posted audio of the alleged comment.
The news release issued by the Chiefs on Wednesday night said only that Johnson, who turns 30 in a few weeks, was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team. The Chiefs said they would have no further comment on Johnson's status "at this time."
Johnson issued an apology Tuesday, almost exactly 12 months after he apologized to the team and its fans and ownership for two incidents that led to his pleading guilty to disturbing the peace. Those problems in in Kansas City nightspots caused Johnson to be benched for three games in 2008 and suspended by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for an additional game.
In addition, Johnson has incurred the wrath of fans and coaches for such things as drawing penalties by hurling his helmet onto the turf during games to protest poor blocking.
Haley, while refusing to comment on Johnson specifically, has been saying that the Chiefs take the public conduct of players very seriously.
Johnson was one of the best running backs in the NFL in 2005 and '06, running for more than 1,700 yards each season and earning Pro Bowl honors. But this season, like the Chiefs, he has struggled. The blocking hasn't been good, and Johnson doesn't appear to possess the speed and power that made him so effective three years ago. Johnson has rushed for 358 yards on 132 carries.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.