Just a few minutes before Brett Favre and Greg Jennings sucked the air out of Arrowhead Stadium and the Chiefs season, linebacker A.J. Hawk tackled Larry Johnson on a short pass to the left side of the field. Both players twisted awkwardly as they fell to the ground. Two went down. One got up.
Larry Johnson left Arrowhead that day with what was initially called a mid-foot sprain. Since then, the Chiefs have lost six straight games and have put two backup players on the injured reserve list, center Rudy Niswanger and quarterback Tyler Thigpen.
For a couple of weeks after the initial injury, we wondered if Larry would require season-ending surgery on his foot. Turns out he didn't. Larry himself reassured us he'd be back but he wasn't sure when.
Six weeks later and each week we've been fed the same line about Larry and his status.
"He's getting rehab, is going to be out this week. Feeling a little better."
The Chiefs have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Playing Larry at this point in the season would be fruitless and potentially dangerous, considering the obvious severity of his foot injury and the obvious weaknesses of our offensive line. Missing six games already and having the season dissolve during that time are two more reasons to sit LJ for the rest of the season. Herm Edwards has said Larry hasn't been put on IR because coming back for a game or two would do good things for Larry's confidence.
Priest Holmes is gone, Kolby Smith is nicked up and we have another running back waiting in the wings on the practice squad. With such an emphasis on youth and competition by our head coach, why is Larry Johnson taking up a valuable roster spot with only three games remaining in the season?
Is putting Larry on IR an admission by Herm Edwards that he overworked the Pro-Bowl runner last season?
Is the Chiefs' brass miffed about a source within the organization leaking information before they were ready to release it? Do they not want to give credence to that report?
Is Larry Johnson looking to leave Kansas City after this season and doesn't want to admit the severity of his injury? Larry did sign a massive contract this past offseason but the Chiefs future can't seem very bright in his eyes.
Or is Larry Johnson really on the verge of coming back, with Larry himself insisting to the coaching staff that he'll return?
I'll throw my speculation out there. It's simple. I think that the Chiefs don't want to add another disappointing storyline to the 2007 season. With Larry still on the active roster, there's still technically hope that he'll return and that this team isn't totally broken. "Injured reserve" has such a nice, contrite way of relaying information to fans. You hear "injured reserve" and your immediate thought is, "Season over". Putting LJ on injured reserve is an official action by the organization that would bring that much more attention to one of the worst seasons the Chiefs have experienced in twenty years. Better to let the story fade as the season ends than make a public declaration.
In relation to the local media, the Kansas City Chiefs are like a bully with low-self esteem. They won't take the high road, as evidenced by the repeated jabs given to Jason Whitlock, sports talk radio hosts and The Kansas City Star on KCChiefs.com. They even have an anonymous writer, "Rufus Dawes", who refutes the biggest criticisms of the week sent in by fans. The Chiefs have chosen a strategy of actively defending themselves against the local media and the lack of information about Larry Johnson is another battle in that fight.
The Chiefs are going to keep their mouth shut on the Larry Johnson injury issue and frankly, I don't think they care if we want to know or not.