Bus Stops: L.J. can still play, but teams probably won't give him shot
Seattle, New England, Washington all could use veteran RB
Kris Brown probably felt the wrath of the locker room Sunday
More thoughts on Week 9, including my pick for Steelers-Broncos
Throughout the 2009 season, SI.com's Adam Duerson will work with Jerome Bettis to get the six-time Pro Bowl running back's observations about the previous week's games. Bettis retired from the NFL in 2006 after a 13-year career.
The question everybody's asking today: What happens with Larry Johnson? In case you missed it, the Chiefs cut L.J. today. Believe it or not, I think the guy can be an asset. There's absolutely no doubt in my mind he still has NFL-caliber talent. But he created such a firestorm around him in K.C. and he's shown such bad character that I really wouldn't be surprised if all of the teams that could use a guy like Larry -- and there are plenty: Seattle, New England, perhaps Washington with Clinton Portis going down -- take a pass.
If you're a good team in the playoff hunt, you can't have poison like that in your locker room. If you're a bad team in search of a back -- well, a lot of those teams have young or new coaches, and those teams especially can't deal with a bad apple. That's why he got the boot in Kansas City, where Todd Haley is trying to win this team over. It's the same reason Jay Cutler was ejected from Denver so quickly and why they were about to ship off Brandon Marshall; it's why Eric Mangini booted Braylon Edwards. These young coaches can't afford an overbearing personality dominating their locker room.
Johnson's issues are on-going, so that pretty much seals his fate, in my mind. The guy didn't make one lone bad decision; he didn't have a singular incident on a boat or something. This guy is a repeat offender. He's disgruntled. And those things will weigh heavily on the mind of any coach looking at him. And why shouldn't they? For all of his positives -- he's big and he's fast, a great combo -- he hasn't shown us anything this year. He turns 30 in two weeks, but there won't be much celebrating. I wouldn't sign the guy. I don't think anyone else will.
Glad I wasn't in Kris Brown's shoes when he missed that field goal, costing Houston a chance to go into overtime against undefeated Indianapolis. Do players get legitimately angry at their kicker in that situation? Yessiree. I promise, it was not a pretty situation in that locker room. I'll tell you how every other player on that team feels, whether it's right or wrong: All you do is kick, Kris. If you can't do that, why are you here? S---, that's all you do.
It's frustrating but I always tried to keep some levity about the situation when I played. If a guy missed a big kick for us, that Wednesday I'd joke around with the guy, and let him know it's all cool. "We're all still on your side, buddy -- but you better not miss another field goal like that."
Chad Ochocinco "bribing" a referee? Come on, you have to laugh at that. I thought that was classic. Chad's such a funny guy; he cracks me up. I loved the joke. There wasn't any maliciousness involved. It's pretty much in line with his character.
Give me one minute with Roger Goodell -- who's most certainly about to drop a fine -- and here's what I'd say: You can't take the fun away from this game. There are boundaries and most players know them. Chad knows them. He's never been a bad guy, Roger. Consider the person and the situation before you lay a fine on him.
I see how the scuffle between Atlanta and Washington started. Matt Ryan got hit a little late on the sideline, and when you see that happen to the leader of your team you start thinking all of the worst things. No other single player has a bigger part in whether you win or lose. I know how much it scares you as a player, and so you want to retaliate. I get that. It's going to happen. Coaches understand that.
But you're entering a danger zone when you get involved as a coach, Mike Smith. Think about this in terms of war. When you see your general go to the line, all hands are on deck. Smith got into the fray and every single Falcon was there in a heartbeat. Fine. But what happens next time? All of a sudden, it's in the head of every one of those Atlanta players: When someone crosses our sideline or touches our quarterback late, it's on. And it can't be that simple. I don't think Smith should be punished, per se, but he needs to come out and say he went too far before his own players get the wrong idea.
Let's all give Raheem Morris a little credit for Josh Freeman's big win. The first-year coach held out his rookie quarterback for seven games when everyone was crying for Freeman to be the starter. Those seven weeks gave the kid extra time to get a feel for the pace of the game, and I think it showed. From my seat at home this guy looked like a legitimate NFL quarterback. I thought I was watching Warren Moon. And I don't think that would have been the case in Week 1 if he'd started fresh, without ever having been part of a live NFL game beforehand. The patience is paying off.
In Pittsburgh, there was always a guy who we called "The Reaper" who would tell players before a game whether or not they were suiting up. In our case he was the strength and conditioning coach, and it was usually the borderline guys that The Reaper would talk to, the guys who didn't always make the game day roster, mostly special team guys. Now, I don't know how Arizona usually handles that situation, but the way they told Anquan Boldin that he wouldn't be suiting up against Chicago -- by clearing out his locker while he was testing out a shaky ankle in pregame warm-ups -- lacked some class.
Don't get me wrong. Head coaches have to be allowed to make that decision. Sometimes a player isn't in the best place to decide if he's healthy or not. No player wants to sit on the sideline, especially not Anquan Boldin, a guy we've seen play through some serious pain in the past. But it was a poor way to handle that situation, Ken Whisenhunt. Anquan's a veteran who deserved an explanation, and he deserved it from his coach.
Tonight, I like the Steelers over the Broncos in a classic Monday nighter. They'll use the template Baltimore's defense set for beating Kyle Orton: get pressure on him and make the guy commit mistakes. But I think the difference will be Ben Roethlisberger's scrambling -- his uncanny ability to extend plays -- against a Broncos defense that will certainly be blitzing. When Denver comes hard and Ben gets some one-on-one looks, that's where Pittsburgh takes this one.
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