Titans Notebook: Plenty of Respect Left For Chris Johnson

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – You won't hear a bad word about Chris Johnson in the Titans locker room. Six consecutive 1,000 yard seasons will do that. During his tenure in Tennessee from 2008-13, only Adrian Peterson (8,774) had more than Johnson's 7,965 rushing yards.

The man known as CJ2K was the definition of a home run hitter. Johnson racked up 12 rushes of at least 50 yards, six of which went for 80 yards or more.

The Titans drafted Johnson out of East Carolina with the 24th overall pick in 2008. Sunday will mark the first time he steps into the visiting locker room at LP Field.

"I think he's going to come in here and try to prove something," said safety Michael Griffin, who is still good friends with CJ. "I'm pretty sure he's licking his chops to get out there and shine."

The Titans have struggled against the run of late, currently ranked last in the league by giving up over 140 yards per game. Tennessee has allowed a 100-yard back in five of their last six games, with Johnson surely hoping to add to the list on Sunday.

Johnson's top-end, breakaway speed might not be what it used to be, but Griffin would rather the Titans not find out for themselves.

"I just want to make sure he doesn't get in that space," Griffin said. "We all know what he can do when he gets in space. I hope that we understand the need to keep contain and stay in our gaps, because if you give this guy that opportunity, there's nobody that's going to be able to run him down."

The banter between friends has already begun.

"I'm texting him now," said Griffin. "I plan on talking to him before, but it's going to be fun. It actually counts now. When you tell someone they missed a tackle in practice it's one thing, but now you really have to make that tackle."

Receiver Nate Washington also keeps up with Johnson and said going against a former teammate brings new stakes to the table.

"I talked to CJ last night," Washington said. "He texted me last night. We had some good chatter, but it was all in good fun and good friendship. We talked about what this game means to us. It didn't matter the records, we just let each other know that it's on this Sunday."

Former Bills safety George Wilson has had the pleasure, or misfortune of seeing some of Johnson's biggest performances as an opponent.

In 2009, Johnson torched Buffalo for 132 yards and two touchdowns. Two years later in 2011, CJ ran for 153 yards on just 23 carries with two more scores. Johnson remained a nightmare for the Bills the following season, gashing Buffalo for another 195 yards and two touchdowns yet again. Those 195 yards came on a mere 18 carries for a robust average of 10.83.

In all three contests, Wilson was on the other side of the football enduring the wrath of CJ.

"Playing against CJ, he was a guy you couldn't allow in the secondary untouched," said Wilson. "You couldn't let him get off to a fast start. He's a home run hitter and a game-breaker. He's made me miss before, but I was lucky enough to stop his feet enough to keep him from going the distance. When he gets in space you have to take a high angle for where he is going to be."

Jackie Battle knows all about playing against a former team. After spending five seasons in Kansas City, Battle returned to Arrowhead as a member of the San Diego Chargers in 2012. Battle's two touchdowns in the game earned him a chorus of boos from his former home crowd.

"It should be fun," Battle said. "I think he's going to have some extra juice in him. I've played against my old team a few times and you always have an extra something. It's more fun to play against guys you know personally."

CJ said in his conference call on Wednesday that he didn't know what to expect from Titans fans, but he knows Sunday will mean a lot to him from a personal standpoint.

"There's going to be a lot of emotions," he said. "I'm really just trying to focus on the game and going in there trying to win the game. I'm basically going to go in there and try to focus on what I have to do."

There is certainly a degree of unknown for what will transpire at LP Field on Sunday, but its guaranteed there won't be a single player in the Titans locker room taking CJ for granted.

Johnson's numbers in his first season as a Jet aren't glamorous – just 558 rushing yards and one touchdown – but his legacy in Titans franchise history is firmly entrenched.

"He definitely has to be in the top five," Washington said.

A first-round pick (24th overall) by the Titans in 2008, RB Chris Johnson became just the sixth player in NFL history to rush for over 2,000 yards in 2009. He earned three Pro Bowls and was the NFL's Offensive Player of the Year in 2009. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)

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