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Titans' Johnson plans to play vs. Jaguars despite sore ankle

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Associated Press
12/27/2012 4:04:27 PM
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NASHVILLE -- The only game Chris Johnson has missed in the NFL came when Tennessee sidelined the running back in 2008 to prep for the playoffs.

He isn't about to let a sore right ankle sideline him now.

Johnson said Thursday he takes pride in showing his durability in a league where nearly every player deals with injuries. He calls himself "a go" for Sunday's season finale against the Jaguars (2-13) despite missing a second straight practice Thursday after hurting his ankle last week in a 55-7 loss in Green Bay.

"It's a situation where I know it's our last game. I know we're not going to the playoffs or anything like that. I still want to go out and fight with my teammates," Johnson said.

The running back already has 1,187 yards rushing this season despite an offensive line missing four starters from the preseason. That ranks as his fourth-best season with a game left in a rebound from last year when he had a career-low 1,047 yards after signing a $53.5 million extension.

Johnson would need one of his best games to do it, but he could join Eric Dickerson, LaDainian Tomlinson and Emmitt Smith as the only NFL players to run for 7,000 yards in their first five seasons with 168 yards rushing. He has run for that many yards once in his career with four games better than that. He currently has 6,832 yards rushing.

"That'd be very nice," Johnson said. "Anytime you can set a record and have your name up there with Hall of Famer type of guys, it's always a great accomplishment to have under your belt."

He'll be running against a Jacksonville defence that ranks 31st against the run allowing 145.1 yards per game. The Jaguars have given up more than 200 yards rushing three times this season, though they did get back linebacker Daryl Smith last week against New England where they allowed only 103 yards total.

If Johnson starts Sunday as he expects, this will be his fourth straight season starting all 16 games. That dependability is why coach Mike Munchak expects Johnson to play against Jacksonville. Munchak called Johnson's streak amazing considering his size at 5-foot-11 and 191 pounds to go along with 1,442 rushing attempts and 229 career catches.

"That's a credit to him and the way he takes care of himself, that he can withstand that kind of punishment in the NFL that he takes, like any running back takes when they're running the football, catching it, and on the field as much as he is ...," Munchak said. "Hopefully he'll be able to finish up this season with a big game.

With all the offensive line injuries and the Titans (5-10) losing six of their last eight games, Johnson's future with the franchise has been the topic of heavy speculation. A clause in his contract allows the Titans to release him within the first five days of the new league year after the Super Bowl or $9 million of his $10 million salary for 2013 will be guaranteed.

Johnson's contract goes through 2016, and the Titans still see him as one of their best players.

"He's our playmaker," Munchak said last week. "He's the guy everyone knows when you travel around. He's the first guy people want to know about, so you want the running game to do well."

That hasn't stopped Johnson from being asked about his future repeatedly, and the 27-year-old running back has deflected questions on whether he wanted to be traded and what team he wanted to play for. Even Thursday, Johnson said he's focusing only on Sunday's game and not worrying about any changes that might happen on the roster or the coaching staff after such a turbulent season.

He noted offensive co-ordinator Chris Palmer was fired, Jake Locker was named the starter at quarterback only to get hurt and replaced by Matt Hasselbeck. Locker's return also was mixed in with the constant changes on the offensive line due to injuries.

"It's a situation I can't worry about," Johnson said. "All I can worry about is the team and try to get a victory."

Notes: Munchak said TE Craig Stevens (concussion) is highly questionable for the finale with LB Colin McCarthy (concussion) likely out again too. WR Kendall Wright (rib) practiced fully and expects to play. RB Jamie Harper (ankle) did not practice along with LB Will Witherspoon (chest), WR Damian Williams (foot) and C Kevin Matthews (right ankle). Munchak expects Witherspoon, Johnson, Harper and possibly Williams to practice Friday.

Chris Johnson (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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