After winning huge contract, Johnson can't get going for KC

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Larry Johnson's legs might not be in top shape yet. His tongue sure is.

The Chiefs running back wonders if anybody is listening, though.

"I learned a long time ago about coaches. They're always going to do what they want to do. It's usually an ego thing rather than trying to be better or trying to get better or trying to listen to input," he said Monday.

"It's just hard to change a coach's perspective or change an offensive coordinator's plays when this is what they've been used to doing ever since they came into the league."

Johnson agrees that coaches have too much time on their hands.

"Football is easy," he said. "It's not a chess game. It's checkers. When they're looking for the run, you pass. When they're looking for the pass, you run. When they put nine in the box, you pass. When they overload one side, you run to the other side."

Just like 2006 league MVP LaDainian Tomlinson, Johnson is struggling. And they face each other on Sunday in San Diego. So billing the game as a showdown between the NFL's two best running backs may be a tough sell.

The Chargers' LaDainian Tomlinson, last year's and rushing champion with 1,815 yards, has been averaging a feeble 2.3 yards per carry through the first three games, putting him near the bottom of the NFL rushing charts -- and in good company.

Johnson, who was right behind Tomlinson last year with 1,789 yards on a league-record 416 carries, is right there with him near the bottom.

"I feel bad for LT," said Johnson, who has only 140 yards on 50 carries for a sickly 2.8-yard average.

"For him coming off being NFL MVP and rushing leader and to go to being almost dead last -- right by me -- I know he's frustrated with things that are happening with him. But hopefully our abilities will have us snap back out of it and we'll be back on track like we were the last couple of seasons."

Both the Chargers and Chiefs are 1-2, which has something to do with the problems of their star runners. Johnson was expected to get off to a slow start after a 25-day holdout that made him the highest-paid player in Chiefs history. But nobody expected Tomlinson to have just 130 yards on 57 carries going into Week 4.

"Being an admirer of another running back, I do feel his frustration," said Johnson. "I don't feel sorry for him, but I do understand his pain. Hopefully, we'll get back on track the next couple of weeks."

It's doubtful anyone could have run against Minnesota on Sunday. The Vikings were obviously keying on Johnson throughout the first half while the Chiefs, not once throwing to a wide receiver, were held to 56 yards and fell behind 10-0.

After getting stuffed play after play, Johnson finally slammed the ball into the turf and drew a 5-yard penalty while he and quarterback Damon Huard began yelling at each other, at other players and even at coaches.

"It was an emotional game. Football's always been emotional to me," Johnson said.

Coach Herm Edwards acknowledged he had a gang of angry players at halftime. In the second half, they did what many players were arguing for and opened up the offense, finally eking out a 13-10 win on Huard's 16-yard TD pass to Dwayne Bowe.

"Everybody was yelling at everybody," Johnson said. "I didn't know who Damon was yelling at and I was yelling at whoever would listen. I came off to the sideline and the defensive players said, `Hey, why don't you say something?' After a while, it became too obvious what was going on. So I had to say something. I had to get my input. Obviously, I'm not becoming a detriment to the team if they're asking me to respond, to step up."

Johnson also admitted he has been slightly hurt, nursing "a little nicknack" he got in the Chicago game two weeks ago.

"But it's hard for them to take me out of the game because I want to play and I want to contribute as much as possible to a win," he said.

Edwards said Johnson would play Sunday, and that he did pay heed to what his players had to say during the Minnesota game.

"You always listen to what your players are saying. You've got to listen them in an environment when it's calm and not so competitive like during a game," Edwards said.

"A lot of times, players are looking at something way different than what coaches are seeing. They think it's this and all of a sudden they come over to the sideline and they see the pictures and they say, 'Oh, it wasn't that.' That's emotion. We've been sitting on that powder keg for about two weeks now."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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