NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Chris Johnson is confident he will be ready for the Titans’ season finale against the Jaguars on Sunday even though he missed practice the second day in a row because of an ankle injury.
Johnson said finishing his fifth NFL season on the field is incredibly important to him. The running back has played in every game of his NFL career except when Tennessee opted to rest him for the playoffs in Week 17 of 2008.
“Yeah, I take pride in that, just to show that I’m durable and capable of playing a 16-game season,” Johnson said. “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 but I still want to go out and play with my teammates.”
Johnson is 168 rushing yards shy of becoming the fourth player in NFL history to rush for 7,000 yards in his first five seasons. Eric Dickerson, LaDainian Tomlinson and Emmitt Smith are the only three players to hit that mark.
Titans coach Mike Munchak said Johnson’s durability has been “amazing.”
“For his size and the hits he’s taken over all the years of carrying the ball as much as he has,” Munchak said, “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. He’s not just a first-and second-down back, he plays quite a bit on third down. That’s a credit to him. Hopefully he’ll be able to finish up this season with a big game.”
Johnson’s backup Jamie Harper is also battling an ankle injury that he also suffered last Sunday at Green Bay. Harper missed practice Thursday for the second straight day, but the Jacksonville, Fla., native also hopes to be available against the Jaguars.
O-LINE SHIFTS AGAIN
The Titans plan to start a different combination on offensive line for the third straight week and their sixth different starting combo this season.
Munchak said the Titans plan to go with Fernando Velasco at left guard and Kyle DeVan at center, along with Michael Roos at left tackle, Deuce Lutui at right guard and Byron Stingily at right tackle.
Stingily, a sixth-round draft pick in 2011, made his first start Sunday at Green Bay after fifth-year pro Mike Otto suffered from the flu. Stingily said he found out that he would start about an hour before the game and at first thought that Nate Washington had convinced assistant offensive line coach Nate Kaczor to tell him that as a joke.
“I was more nervous right before the game (than this week) because I wasn’t expecting it,” Stingily said. “I think I’m more prepared this week because I’ve got my mind more focused.”
Munchak was pleased with Stingily’s performance and said he wants to see how Stingily performs two weeks in a row.
“All the craziness of that game, and the game not being a memorable one for any reasons, at least he had a nice, solid football game against some good football players,” Munchak said. “I think that helped him gain some experience. We thought we’d give him another chance this week to see how he can put two games back-to-back. That will mean a lot for him and for us going into the offseason.”
McCARTHY OUT, STEVENS UNLIKELY TO PLAY
Concussions are likely to sideline linebacker Colin McCarthy and tight end Craig Stevens this week.
“(McCarthy will) be out this week, I’m sure,” Munchak said. “I’m sure (Stevens) is highly questionable. Chances are he won’t play.”
McCarthy has been sidelined since being diagnosed with a concussion after the Titans’ first game this season against the Jaguars on Nov. 25. Stevens was hit in the head by the Packers on Sunday.
The injury to Stevens leaves the Titans thin at tight end because Jared Cook suffered a season-ending injury against Indianapolis on Dec. 9. Only rookies Taylor Thompson and Brandon Barden would remain as true tight ends, but the Titans might call on Otto to take snaps at tight end, Munchak said.
“He’s done it before,” Munchak said. “That’s something we can move if we have to throughout the game.”
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