In anticipation of this weekend’s game with the Ravens, Todd Haley and Larry Johnson spoke with the Baltimore media via conference calls.
Here are the highlights:
On if he thinks RB Larry Johnson will run for 100 yards against the Ravens again, because he was the last player to do so:
“He was, huh? That’s been a while, I would think. In my history here coaching, being an assistant, assistant receivers coach, coordinator, I had to play the Ravens a bunch going all the way back to the Jets days, and there isn’t one time you ever looked forward to it, because to me, there is no better run defense than Baltimore. They’ve been able to consistently keep that even though they’ve lost players. They’ve brought in other players that are able to do the same job, it appears, and they do an unbelievable job of stopping the run. So, it’s not something that I’m looking forward to.”
On what Johnson brings to the table as a running back:
“I think that Larry is a big back that can get some yards when they’re not there. He’s obviously somebody that’s put up some numbers over the years. He had an off year last year, obviously, for a bunch of different reasons, but I think he’s worked hard, and I think he’s excited for this season to start.”
On if he approaches facing the Ravens’ defense schematically or by trying to be more physical:
“I don’t know that you can be more physical than they are, I really don’t. So, you have to figure out ways to move the football against a defense that doesn’t want you moving it. Again, I think they’re obviously a physical, physical group, and it starts with [No.] 52 [Ray Lewis] in the middle. And I think it’d be tough, I think you’d have your work cut out for you, trying to be more physical than them.”
On how QB Matt Cassel is doing with his knee and if he feels optimistic about Cassel’s chances on Sunday:
“I’m going to list him as questionable. He got through some practice, but we’ve got a couple of more days of practice here to evaluate where he’s at.”
On what his team is feeling with the fresh start:
“I’m mad at Coach Harbaugh, because he and Coach Sparano, they set the bar a little high, I think. What Baltimore was able to do last year in the turnaround was a tremendous job by the whole organization to bounce back after an off year. We’ve got a big job ahead of us, and we knew that coming in, and we’re working every day as hard as we can to give the Chiefs the best chance to start winning football games.”
On his transition to offensive coordinator:
“It’s something that I’m familiar with, so that part of it is comfortable. I’m still the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, and that means I’ve got to coach the whole team. I’ve got to coach offense, defense, special teams. I’ve got to coach the staff. It’s been busy, the work load, which I knew when we made the change that was going to be the case. Right now it feels about like Week 15 already. It’s going to take some work.”
How WR Dwayne Bowe has adjusted to his standards, and if there’s a good outlook for him:
“Yeah, I think Dwayne had made very good progress. He started out a little slow, but he’s starting to get it. He’s starting to get it and understand what’s expected of him. I think Dwayne wants to be good, and that usually gives it a chance of success.”
On him being the last RB to rush for 100 yards against Baltimore:
“To me, I take it as a great honor, because that’s a great defense that I was playing against. And still, as long as they have Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, those guys back there, then I still have a certain respect for them. But it was obviously a great game, and a game for me, but it still hurt me more after the game because of the fact that those guys didn’t give me an inch and they hit me most every play.”
On whether it feels like a fresh start for him with a new coaching staff and GM this year:
“Yeah, I think it’s a fresh start for me. Those guys came in with the understanding that they were going to go off of my work ethic, and I think I proved to them enough that me working was enough. Me working in the offseason was enough to have me still be a part of this football team.”
On the feeling of going into a new season with a new QB, head coach and much change:
“Like Coach Haley always says, ‘Change isn’t always nice. Sometimes it’s painful.’ But I think it was a change that was necessary and needed for us to understand that nothing was going to be given to us easy – even going through this tough schedule. And he wanted to prepare us for it.”
On whether they can take anything from what the Ravens accomplished last year regarding change and new coaches:
“I mean, as long as you have that quarterback position locked up and they know who’s going to be the leader at that position, I think everything else falls in place. And of course, having Todd [Haley] calling the plays in a great offensive system, you can rest your laurels onto knowing that those things – that you do in the football game – those things can easily get corrected as long as you have those two things in place.”
On whether he expects to see eight or nine guys in the box in the event that QB Matt Cassel is out Sunday:
“I expect it. But at the same time, I expect to do what I have to do as far as… This isn’t the first time I’ve played against eight or nine boxed guys and been successful, especially when I carried the ball 416 times that season. I was seeing eight or nine in the box against almost all the great rush defenses and was still able to put up a good amount of numbers. So, it’s something I prepare myself for.”
On LB Terrell Suggs doing the “diamond taunt” the last time he shoved him out of bounds and whether it made him angry:
“The funny thing about it is, they always do it. [Terrell] and Shawne Merriman just seem to do that, and they kind of flip it upside down, which I don’t know what that meant, when you flip it upside down. I didn’t get why they did that, but it didn’t get me mad. It just got me more excited that, ‘OK, this is the type of game that I’m looking for.’ And for somebody that I respect as far as Terrell Suggs to do that… And what’s so funny about that [is] we ran into each other Super Bowl weekend after that season, and he was like, ‘Man, are you mad at me?’ I was like, ‘No, I’m not mad at you.’ He thought we actually had like some type of beef off the field, but it was just being competitive, and I expect him to be like that this Sunday.”
On whether his role changes in the offense with Coach Haley calling the offensive plays now:
“No, it doesn’t change anything. Todd knows our strengths and our weaknesses, and he knows what he has to do as far as calling plays. So, I don’t expect my role to change any.”
And that last answer — ladies and gentlemen — is why I have been so weary of the “new” Larry Johnson.
He doesn’t expect his role to change.
Does that mean he doesn’t expect to block and maybe only get 15-20 carries a week, especially when Jamaal Charles is going well?
Ever since LJ arrived for OTAs, he has been a perfect citizen in Kansas City and River Falls. But that question always lingered about if he will still say and do all the right things after his contract becomes guaranteed and he isn’t getting the carries he feels he deserves.