A Comfortable L.J. … Sunday Cup O’Chiefs

From River Falls, Wisconsin

He signed. He smiled. He posed for pictures. He signed. He laughed. He signed. He chatted. He signed. He smiled.

For nearly 30 minutes after the Chiefs morning practice session here in the northwoods, Larry Johnson entertained the fans who showed up at the UW-River Falls practice fields. The angry superstar RB went one-on-one with excited followers of the red and gold.

It’s just that L.J. isn’t angry anymore. His smile as captured by photographer David Eulitt of the Kansas City Star (left) was visible early and often. While sometimes invisible to his coaches and teammates, that smile has always been there for the fans.

All through his travails during his time with the Chiefs, Johnson has connected with the public. When the team had open mini-camp practices inside Arrowhead Stadium, it was Johnson who stayed and filled every last request for a signature or a picture. There were times when some of his teammates were already at home watching television before he stopped signing footballs and pictures and shirts and magazines and cards.

All of those items were put in front of him Saturday morning and L.J. signed. And, it wasn’t just head down, not looking up, grimly throwing his John Hancock around. He engaged fans in conversations. He posed for pictures. He smiled.

“I’ve always done that,” Johnson said after he signed one last time and headed for the locker room and a shower.

Why has he always done it? Here’s the story.

When L.J. was a kid, his father Larry Sr. took he and his brother to the Washington Redskins training camp in Carlisle, PA. This was the Super Bowl Skins of Joe Gibbs with the “Fun Bunch” receivers of Gary Clark, Art Monk and Charlie Brown.

“My brother was a little more outgoing than me and he would walk up and ask anybody for an autograph,” Johnson said. “I kind of hung in the background. Well he gets (Hall of Fame linebacker) Sam Huff to sign and Huff didn’t sign for anybody.

“Then he went over and Gary Clark was coming off the field and he tried to get him to stop and sign something and Clark just blew right past him.

“I’ve always remembered that happening and that’s why I try to sign for everybody, no matter how long it takes. I don’t want some kid to be standing there feeling like me and my brother did that day.”

Such is the other side of L.J. that frequently is forgotten with his antics off the field, his angry comments or his frowning demeanor.

None of that has been visible here in River Falls. The K.C. fish wrap called him a “Happy Camper” and that’s certainly not wrong. One of his teammates said he’s even become a player that others are ready to follow.

“I think a lot of guys on this team look up to him because he’s been through a lot,” said WR Dwayne Bowe. “He’s been through a lot and it hasn’t broken him. I think he’s becoming a leader on this team.”

For multiple reasons, Johnson is enjoying himself and the place he’s in.

“I wanted to be gone and said so, but that was because of where the situation was at that time,” Johnson said. “The situation changed and I’m very comfortable with where I am right now, the team, the front office, the town.

“I’m looking forward to this team winning some games and having a big year.”

A lot has happened with Johnson over the last 10 months. The events pretty much backed him into a corner and forced some changes in his attitudes and behavior. There was the counseling he went through last year when he was suspended three games by the Chiefs and one game by the NFL. There are the conditions of his probation after a plea bargain on a pair of assault charges. And there’s the situation with his multi-million dollar contract. If Johnson wants to make the kind of money he’s become used to making, there’s only one place that will happen and that’s with the Chiefs and his current deal.

“When you have your back to the wall and things don’t always go your way, you have to reorganize your priorities and put your head down and go to work,” Johnson said. “That’s what I have been doing since I came back to the off-season program.”

It appears that Johnson has bonded with Todd Haley, because the running back goes out of his way to compliment his coach whenever he’s given the opportunity.

“He is somebody you can really be impressed with,” Johnson said. “He knows what he is doing and he has been around a lot of great players. For some odd reason I feel closer to him. I can go up to him and talk to him about whatever and it’s the same thing with Pioli. Those guys are asking me to come in and try and make a difference with this organization.”

There was a word that Johnson used several times during his conversation on Saturday: comfortable. He appears more comfortable with his team, his coach, his teammates and maybe, just maybe he’s even more comfortable these days in his own skin.

One thing that hasn’t changed is his comfort level with the fans.

“No matter what’s been going on in my life, I could always talk with the fans and they always treated me with respect,” said Johnson. “That’s why I’ll sign every last thing.”

He did on Saturday.


Make that one conditioning test and two practices that No. 1 draft choice Tyson Jackson has missed because of his absence in River Falls.

The Chiefs do not currently comment on contract negotiations and Pioli and Haley want only to talk about the players who are practicing. On Saturday, Haley did not even want to talk about injured players who were rehabbing, only the guys actually working in the practice.

As of late Saturday evening, there remained 13 first-round draft choices without contracts and 17 draft choices overall who have not yet signed.

Jackson is the highest drafted player still out. Also unsigned in the top 10 are fourth-pick LB Aaron Curry in Seattle, sixth-pick OT Andre Smith in Cincinnati, eighth-choice OT Eugene Monroe in Jacksonville, ninth-selection DT B.J. Raji in Green Bay and the 10th-player drafted WR Michael Crabtree by San Francisco.


The Chiefs will have just one practice on Sunday. They will have meetings in the morning and the evening and practice should be around 1:45 p.m.

If Haley sticks to his plans, the team will be in full pads for the Sunday workout. The head coach said that while his team would have three practices over every two days, they would be in pads at least once every day.


  • BILLS – signed DL Corey Mace and CB Antwain Spann.
  • CARDINALS – signed first-round draft choice RB Beanie Wells.
  • COLTS – signed second-round draft choice DT Fili Moala and fourth-round WR Austin Collie.
  • DOLPHINS – signed second-round draft choice Pat White.
  • EAGLES – signed DT Willie Williams (Rams).
  • GIANTS – signed first-round draft choice WR Hakeem Nicks.
  • JAGUARS - signed second-round draft choice OT Eben Britton.
  • LIONS – placed DT Grady Jackson and WR Bryant Johnson on NFI Lists.
  • PATRIOTS – released P Tom Malone.
  • RAVENS – WR Derrick Mason returned to the team, ending his brief retirement; activated S Ed Reed and OL Marshal Yanda from the PUP List.
  • TEXANS – signed first-round draft choice LB Brian Cushing; signed DT Jeff Zgonina.
  • TITANS – signed first-round draft choice WR Kenny Britt.
  • VIKINGS – QB Tarvaris Jackson suffered sprained left knee (MCL) during Saturday morning practice. He’s considered day-to-day for his recovery.


Born on August 2, 1937 in Philadelphia, Mississippi was RB/TE Billy Cannon. He played 11 seasons of pro football after coming out of LSU as the 1959 Heisman Trophy winner. Cannon joined the Chiefs for the last of those seasons in 1970, when he played in six games after spending four seasons with Houston and six years with Oakland. With the Chiefs, Cannon caught seven passes for 125 yards and a pair of TDs. He also carried the ball one time for six yards. He goes down as one of four Heisman Trophy winners to play for the Chiefs, joining QB John Huarte, RB Mike Garrett and RB Marcus Allen.

29 Responses to “A Comfortable L.J. … Sunday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • August 2, 2009  - Butler Hendrix says:

    Go L.J. GO
    It makes me HAPPY to see L.J.
    Happy Happy Happy

    I wish Tony could have gotten HAPPY

  • August 2, 2009  - chris says:

    Good luck LJ! I hope it all works out for you and the team! I hope you get 1000+ yards this season, just get that blocking down my friend! Go CHIEFS!

  • August 2, 2009  - Dan says:

    It sounds like LJ is turning it around..we will have to wait and see.

    I think Tony G may regret his trade…talk of using him more for blocking ….NFC has many more talented tight ends…making Pro bowl could be tougher..I hope I am wrong for him.

    BOOMER is with the Texans! Always root for BOOMER! It should be fun to see him in preseason game. NOTE: Bob, would be a great story for your page.

  • August 2, 2009  - findthedr says:

    LJ has $4 million reasons to keep a smile on his face till the start of the regular season.

  • August 2, 2009  - Jim Lloyd+ says:

    And Clark will love to sign all those reasons,after all he is the one person that overnight put all this together, and it’s just starting.
    I said this was going to start going together, some one said I was stupid–thats right–but, beside’s that you don’t have to be very sharp to really see where this is all going,( UNLESS YOUR ARE BLIND ).

  • August 2, 2009  - Chiefs News from the Overnight « wire2 says:

    [...] A Comfortable L.J. … Sunday Cup O’Chiefs From Bob Gretz [...]

  • August 2, 2009  - anonymous says:

    I’ve never been a big LJ guy, but he’s earned some respect from me, with the way he’s handled this. Weather his motivation is purely monetary or not. It takes some balls to come in and do what he has done (to this point) after making a total ass of him self with his “Scarface” bullshi*!

    Damn near everyone praises Waters for being a “true pro” and makes excuses for him,… Hell, I can’t tell! Looks to me like LJ is the Real Pro!

    All the players say they wanted things to change at Arrowhead, and I’m sure they did, but not many felt they themselves needed to change too or that the change should have an effect on themselves. LJ seems to have grasped that concept and embraced it, Waters,NOT so much!

  • August 2, 2009  - Don in Wichita says:

    I really do hope for the best from LJ. We could really use a strong running game like he used to put out. I know alot of people (including me) have voiced displeasure and critisism from his past problems off the field and in his personal life. I hope he is truely changed as a person. If so, it would be great for him. I still remember watching him make the game winning touchdown over the pile of ‘da Raiders a few years back and hope to see that fire again. We need it!

  • August 2, 2009  - Stiv says:

    Yeah, it would be real convenient if LJ and Charles had a big year out of the backfield. That would certainly take some pressure off of Cassell and the passing game which I think will struggle some during the first half of the season.

  • August 2, 2009  - Damon, from Baltimore says says:

    Good 2 see LJ back on board, since he is happy now he should remain happy and he should only be angry 4 the next 16 straight Sunday’s against the opposing teams.run angry Larry….!!!!

  • August 2, 2009  - Damon, from Baltimore says says:

    Have been following training camp info Mr.Haley will have this team in good physical shape by time regular season start. 200 yard penalty 4 each infraction, they will have great stamina 4 regular season games, now they will be able 2 run all 4 quarters and not just 2 half time. Keep up the goog work and discipline Mr. Haley. GO CHIEFS…!!!


  • August 2, 2009  - Damon, from Baltimore says says:

    200 yards 4 each infraction they will be in good shape and have great stamina. Good discipline Mr. Haley. 2010 Super Bowl runs thru KC! Go Chiefs…..!!!!!

  • August 2, 2009  - Rin Tin Tin says:

    Real Rin ® daddy-o sez -

    ing ing ing - and still the ’search’ goes on as Day 3 the holdout “Hey #1 Tyson Jackson” officially become a missing Chief -
    he’s described as 6′4 294 lbs., and was last seen hiding from his refrigerator.

    “The Fugitive: a Scott Pioli Production!”
    _ _ _ _ _ _

    Gee Bob G, Rin could almost hear violins playing behind Lar as he sported his ‘new habit’ - which really is but old hat for him.

    “He signed. He smiled. He posed for pictures. He signed. He laughed. He signed. He chatted. He signed. He smiled.”

    Then he clicked his pen three times, said “I know I can I know I can I know I can!” Then he woke up only to discover he was still a Kansas City Chief & (cue Sinatra) “New York - New York!” would have to wait.

    And if Frank isn’t available, Helen Forrest sang “It seems to me I’ve heard this song before it’s from an old familiar score.”

    - - - - -

    Billy Cannon - age 72. Pittsburgh Bob G may well remember that game in 1970 PITT, when Len Dawson made his first ever return to the site of former #1 drafting his.

    Len hit TE Cannon twice with TDS, leading Kaycee to an easy victory (the former Raider Cannon had just come to the Chiefs.) I also remember how WR Otis Taylor schooled Hall of Fame CB Mel Blount for a TD (Otis owned Blount during their careers.)

  • August 2, 2009  - ED says:

    Glad to see LJ is with an organization and a coaching staff that wants him. One of the things that caused so much controversy when he was first drafted here was Vermeil not wanting to draft him. So glad to see LJ happy. Like I said in a previous blog look for a pro bowl season out of this guy.

  • August 2, 2009  - Michael Price says:


  • August 2, 2009  - Scott says:

    I’m going to remain skeptically optomistic about LJ. How’s that? Whatever his motivation may be…I hope it continues for the whole season.

    I hope he DOES have a good season. We need it. He’s our best shot at having a decent running game. And if we don’t have a decent running game…we’re in trouble. I just don’t see our passing game being able to carry our Offense, if that’s all we’ve got.

    I think our D is going to surprise some people this year. If we can stuff the run, we’ll be just fine. That’s the number one thing we HAVE to do. If we can do that…the rest will come.

  • August 2, 2009  - Jim Lloyd+ says:

    Surprise—no ~ Shock—yes,There’s some horse power There on D.
    For one thing Brandon on the field is NOT a very nice guy , he’s kind of mean and very quick.
    I think that the hardest thing Haley has to do is to go to Bal. without cutting any of all the linebackers as the stand !!

  • August 2, 2009  - hawaiianchief says:

    Always thought LJ was the bomb on the field. Sounds like he is maturing as a person off the field. Old school runner, we need him, I hope he runs hard, angry, and fast. Did you know coming out of college LJ was clocked at 4.3?? 4.3 and 2000 yards rushing out of college and he lasted all the way in to the 20’s pretty crazy especially for his size. Hopefully he won’t get caught from behind now that he has lost some weight.

  • August 2, 2009  - harvK says:

    Great website, Mr. Gretz.

    Only a few days into camp and things are looking so much better than last year. The new regime is off to a good start IMHO. A friend with ties to Arrowhead tells me that a deal with Jackson is very close. The friend also said that there may be a surprise trade coming up with an NFC West team. The friend wouldn’t elaborate, so that’s all I know.

  • August 2, 2009  - alex k says:

    Never Liked LJ as a person, or really as a player the last few years especially on his play.

    But, if he comes in with that attitude, turns it around, runs well, im fine with it, could have a nice 1-2 punch at RB if LJ can improve a bit of his blocking for those first down pass situations, and possibly be this happy all season, he could be that ticket to a 9 win season.

  • August 2, 2009  - BinSC says:

    LJ can be happy or mad, doesn’t matter. If they don’t get better play up front they can have anyone they want at RB and get poor results. He has to have a hole to run through and I haven’t seen anything to show there is improvement yet. Need to get all the OL in shape and on the field to work together.

  • August 2, 2009  - Scott D says:

    People! Seriously - we are TWO days into camp! Just a few months ago everyone was ready to run LJ outa town and give Haley and Pioli the downward pointed thum for the Brian Waters confrontation. Some said Jackson was reach, and we spent WAY too much on Cassel and should have waited to see how he’d do. Now, two days into camp and the superbowl goes through KC?? C’mon!!!

    I am optimistic this time of the year too - but lets just watch and take a deep breath. There are about 12 more days of wondering who will get hurt, and whether or not our #1 Draft pick will be who we thought (if he shows up), and…and…

    I’m cautiously hopeful, but realistically cautious. One way or the other - it should be a “different” kind of year.

  • August 2, 2009  - Tracy says:

    LJ seems to have benefited more than anybody else from Todd Haley’s “clean slate” approach to coaching. So far,so good.
    That does, though, leave the Brian Waters enigma to sort through. Apparently Waters passed his physical and is now practicing with the team, so if his self monitored offseason workout regimen puts him back in the fray that is a good step.
    Waters, though, can be stubborn so it may take some kind of sit down with Haley/Pioli, perhaps similar to Gates/Crowley at the White House, to ease tension if it still exists. Or maybe a respectable season–for him and the team–will do it.
    Except for Tyson Jackson’s absence, camp appears to have gone as well as might be expected.
    Thanks for the continued good work, Bob.

  • August 2, 2009  - alex k says:

    yeah love the reports via Bob, even on cbssportsline…where

    Succop was 4 for 4 on field goals today…eat your heart out.

  • August 2, 2009  - alex k says:

    Does anyone besides me think Casey Printers will win the starting QB job for the Chiefs this year?

  • August 3, 2009  - Newslinks 8/3/09 | GoHuddleUp.com says:

    [...] Johnson appears to have had a major attitude overhaul this offseason. He’s happy to be with the Chiefs, is working hard, and is fitting in nicely. [...]

  • August 4, 2009  - CK says:

    Got to be tough for the hermies to read about LJ being more comfortable now.

  • August 4, 2009  - dirty says:

    Yeah, was it Herm, Carl, or Gonzo that he’s so glad is gone? Or all of the above? Or an extreme makeover PR style? Or sincere maturity after almost hitting rock bottom? Time will tell I guess.

  • August 4, 2009  - truthfull T says:

    #27…the ‘J’ is for JOKE

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