Chris Johnson reiterates that he’s not playing until he receives a new contract

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 14: NFL player Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans winner of the Best Breakthrough Athlete Award poses in press room during the 2010 ESPY Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on July 14, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alexandra Wyman/Getty Images for ESPY)

While appearing at the 2010 ESPY’s on Wednesday night, Titans’ running back Chris Johnson made it known that until he receives a new contract, the team can expect him not to show up for training camp next month.

From the Nashville Tennessean:

When ESPN reporter Erin Andrews asked Johnson how contract negotiations were going, Johnson offered this reply: “The contract negotiation, it’s at a standstill right now. I’m just praying right now, hopefully by the time camp comes we’ll have something worked out. If it’s not a long-term deal, just have something to get me to play this year.’’

Andrews then asked what kind of timetable Johnson was looking at: “It’s all up to Tennessee to be honest with you,’’ Johnson said. “Whenever they’re ready to get me into camp, they’ll do something. And when they do something, I’ll be proud to be there and get with my teammates.’’

Johnson had a separate interview session with ESPN reporter Colleen Dominguez, when he said, “We’re losing time right now, so hopefully within the next week or two we can come around and can agree on something.’’

Dominguez then asked him about conflicting reports on whether he would report to camp: “It depends on the Titans,” Johnson said. “If they pay me, I’m in camp. If they’re not, I’m not in camp.’’

There’s really only one way this situation will go down: the Titans will pay Johnson, but it’s not going to be what he’s asking for. At least not right now, anyway.

The Titans are hamstrung by the “30 percent” rule, so they can’t break the bank for him and they don’t want to either, seeing as how he still has three years left on his rookie contract. But they’re going to have to give him some sort of raise or else they risk having their best player proceed with a nasty holdout.

I don’t see one side caving in. I see an eventual compromise that will work for this season and then talks between the two parties resuming once the new CBA deal is signed.

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Titans, Johnson working on compromise

Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson sets an NFL record for yards from scrimmage in a single season with 2,509 on this four yard run against the Seattle Seahawks in the fourth quarter At Qwest Field in Seattle on January 3, 2010. Johnson rushed for 134 yards on 36 carries and scored two touchdown in the Titans 17-13 win over the Seahawks. (UPI /Jim Bryant) Photo via Newscom

According to the Nashville Tennessean, the Titans and the player rep for Chris Johnson are working on a contract compromise that would ensure that the star back will report to training camp on time.

Under the terms of the five-year, $12 million contract he signed prior to his rookie season, Johnson has reached escalators in the deal that could pay him up to an additional $2.5 million in salary in 2012. The Titans could turn that money into a signing bonus in 2010, and combine it with his scheduled base salary of $550,000 for this fall.

Players earn escalators by reaching individual and team goals as part of a contract, and, unlike incentives that are paid out at the end of a season, they’re attached to future salaries. While such a move wouldn’t provide a big pay raise like Johnson wants, it would get him some additional funds now, with the hope of getting a long-term deal after next season.

The Titans have already paid Johnson roughly $7 million in guarantees over his first two seasons. He’s scheduled to make base salaries of $800,000 in 2011 and $960,000 in 2012. The Titans have cited the 30 percent rule, a byproduct of the league’s labor issues, as a reason why a lucrative long-term deal isn’t do-able at this time. It restricts big increases in Johnson’s salary from year to year, since they’d have to pay him guaranteed signing bonus in the $40 million range as part of a market rate extension.

Reaching a contract compromise has seemed like the most logical solution from the start. The Titans can’t give Johnson the long-term deal that he covets because of the “30 percent” rule, but considering he’s far and away their best player and highly underpaid, the team needs to do something.

A modest raise in the form of a bonus makes sense now, and then the two sides can come together after the season and work on a long-term extension. This would ensure that Johnson reports to camp on time and that the Titans have their most productive player ready to go for the regular season.

Agreement between Johnson, Titans coming?

While appearing on the NFL Network on Monday, Michael Lombardi said that the friction between running back Chris Johnson and the Titans is beginning to “thaw.” Lombardi hears a “calmness on both sides” and predicts that an agreement will likely be struck sometime before training camp.

Now, what that agreement will be is unknown. The Titans are still hamstrung by the “30 percent” rule and Johnson still wants to be the highest paid running back in the league. Maybe the team can offer him a modest raise now with promise to talk about a contract extension at the end of the season, assuming Johnson reports to camp on time and isn’t a distraction during the year.

Either way, this situation is becoming more positive by the day. Last week, Johnson reportedly worked out at the Titans’ practice facility and now Lombardi is reporting that the two sides could come to an agreement before training camp. Of course, Johnson did deny working out at Baptist Park, so who knows where things will go from here.

Why the Titans have a leg up in the Chris Johnson holdout

There doesn’t appear to be a quick resolution to the Chris Johnson holdout situation in Tennessee. He doesn’t want to play this season for the $550,000 he’s scheduled to make and recent reports indicate that he wants $30 to 40 million guaranteed.

The Titans’ stance is simple: They don’t want to negotiate a player’s contract after only two seasons. That includes any player, even one has valuable as Johnson.

According to, the Titans have a good reason not to cave into Johnson’s demands:

There’s an interesting angle to Johnson’s case, and it applies to any of the potential training camp holdouts this summer; namely, the 30 day rule. [Ed. note: Someone in the league office must love the number 30, given the 30 percent rule in effect this offseason as well]. The 30 day rule essentially forces holdouts back into camp 30 days before the first game of the regular season (Sept. 9 when the New Orleans Saints host the Minnesota Vikings), which this year works out to Aug. 10. If the player is not back with their team by that date, they lose a year of service, which may affect their free agency status depending on what happens with the new collective bargaining agreement.

Given how productive he’s been in his first two seasons, I don’t blame Johnson for demanding more money. That said, I think I side with the Titans at this juncture.

Let’s say they give into Johnson’s demands and re-work his contract. Let’s even say that they give him $40 million guaranteed; will he eventually ask for more money in a couple of years if he continues to play well?

In the current landscape of the NFL, free agents make the most money and that’s often regardless of whether or not they’re the best at their position. Johnson wants to be the highest paid running back in the league, but even if the Titans honor his wishes, he likely won’t be the highest paid within two years. Then what happens? He asks for another raise? I know this is a hypothetical, but it’s something that the Titans have to think about.

I think Johnson deserves a raise, but if you step into the Titans’ shoes, it’s hard to fault them for bulking on the idea of paying him now. Generally speaking, teams don’t even consider re-working a player’s contract until after they’ve been in the league for three years. Johnson is one year early on his contract demands.

Of course, no player did what Johnson did in his second year either, making this situation incredibly tricky for both parties.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Chris Johnson receiving a harsh lesson about NFL contracts

You do a good job for your employer and you’re compensated. If you do extraordinary work, you’re supposed to get a raise. If you do below average work, you could be reprimanded or worse, you could lose your job.

This is how things are supposed to transpire in the working world, although we all know that it doesn’t always happen that way. Cutbacks cause hard-working people to lose their jobs, while in most cases the higher-ups usually get paid the most to do the least.

In the NFL, players sign non-guaranteed contracts. If they don’t perform or they get hurt, a team has the right to release them and the player won’t see the full amount of their contract. But if a player wants more money, they either have to play out the rest of their deal or force their team’s hand.

That’s the dilemma that Chris Johnson currently finds himself in. Despite having three years left on his current deal, he wants the Titans to offer him more money. He hasn’t participated in any organized team activities this year and even though he said on Monday that he wasn’t upset with his team, recent comments he made on his Twitter page reveal otherwise.

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