NFL notes: Titans in a jam

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:07 PM ET

Despite a “down” season (though 1,364 rushing yards qualify as poor only if you ran for 2,006 the year before), Chris Johnson believes he is underpaid and plans to hold out.

The Tennessee Titans’ running back is slated to make $800,000 US this season and as The Tennessean has been reporting for a while, that’s not going to cut it with one of the NFL’s top backs so he won’t be at camp.

Reports say the sides aren’t talking. The Titans are in a bind, Johnson has been nothing short of brilliant so far, but he will soon be 26 and has an awful lot of touches under his belt.

Handing Johnson a massive new contract is a risk as he might not last long enough to make it worth it, but then again, dealing him away removes one of the NFL’s most lethal offensive weapons from Tennessee’s lineup.

Carolina’s deAngelo Williams, an older, inferior and less durable player, just got $21 million guaranteed from Carolina. Johnson surely was paying attention to that situation.

Johnson probably won’t sniff 2,000 yards again, but he’s still a heck of a back. Somebody will show him the money, expect the Titans to cave, but it might take a while.

SMITH WANTS TO STAY

Cancel the Steve Smith trade watch.

The veteran wide receiver wants to stay put in Carolina, because he feels loyalty to the team that gave him a chance when others weren’t interested.

Smith told ESPN he intends to retire with the Panthers, though he isn’t sure if that day is years off or in the near future.

“For me I’m always going to be a Panther,” Smith said.

The team was planning to shop him as it is rebuilding around No. 1 overall selection Cam Newton, but apparently Smith, a four-time Pro Bowler is excited about combining with the young quarterback.

Smith started his Panthers career on a 1-15 disaster so he has experienced a rebuild before.

The 2-14 Panthers might not be as far off from being decent as most think. Running back DeAngelo Williams and defensive end Charles Johnson, two highly coveted free agents, have re-upped with the team and Newton has a huge upside, though he also has high bust potential.

Smith is 32 and owed $14.75 million US over the next two seasons. Given his high salary and poor 2010 campaign, it was thought the Panthers would move him and Smith had earlier said he welcomed a new start with a contender.

BACK-HANDED COMPLIMENT

Beavis and Butthead meet Breaston and Butthole?

Steve Breaston signed a five-year contract with Kansas City and alluded that his new coach, Todd Haley, might not be the easiest to get along with.

Haley was Arizona’s offensive coordinator for the first two seasons of Breaston’s career and Breaston put up excellent numbers under him.

Still, he had an odd way of describing Haley, telling Kansas City’s 810 Sports Radio: “Coach Haley’s not always a butthole.” To be fair, Breaston was trying to illustrate that Haley, regarded as a bit of an, er, hard-ass, was actually a good guy.

“He goes out there every day and expects the best from you. He expects perfection actually. You go out there and you see he’s a competitor and you want to play for a coach like that,” Breaston said.

“He never let me take a day off. And a few other coaches in Arizona never let me take a day off and were constantly pushing me. Coach Haley is just a little bit more in your face about not letting you take a day off. He’s always watching. Don’t ever think Coach Haley isn’t watching, because he’s always around, he’s always interacting with the players and it really pushed me to be the player I am today.”

PLAYERS WANT A PARDON

The NFL Players’ Association is firmly against seeing its members punished for bad behaviour during the lockout.

NFLPA president Kevin Mawae told Nashville’s 104.5 “The Wake Up Zone” that players should not get in trouble retroactively for infractions committed during the lockout.

“Our view and our stance has been our players were unemployed, they didn’t work for the NFL for the last five, six months,” Mawae told the station.

“So we would hope and argue that our guys start with a clean slate.”

Discipline is one of the final pieces that needs to be negotiated when the union recertifies so the new collective bargaining agreement can get ratified.

“It would be unfortunate if our guys got suspended right off the bat because the commissioner decides unilaterally to make that decision. But at the end of the day, our guys weren’t working for the NFL at that time.”

It will be quite interesting to see how this shakes out, but the guess from this corner is the players who messed up will get a stern warning but no punishment. If they get in trouble again though, surely their past transgressions — from the lockout period or otherwise — will be taken into consideration though.

HAYNESWORTH A PATRIOT

Hey, hey, hey, Albert Haynesworth is shuffling off to New England.

The hefty defensive tackle’s sordid saga with the Washington Redskins finally has come to an end.

The Patriots are taking a chance on the former star, in exchange for a 2013 fifth-round draft pick, though the trade has not yet been officially completed.

Haynesworth still needs to pass a physical — which has been a challenge in the past.

“I talked to (Washington coach) Mike Shanahan last night and we’re in the process of acquiring Haynesworth, but that’s not complete yet, so I can’t really comment on that at this point until it’s completed — if it does get completed,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said on Thursday morning.

The Patriots have a history on gambling on players with troubled pasts — Haynesworth has gotten into trouble previously for both on- and off-field misbehaviour.

He is also at his best in a 4-3 defence, which New England only plays part of the time, so it is unclear how much of an impact he will have.

Haynesworth received a ludicrous $41 million US guaranteed from the Redskins in 2009 but played only 20 games with the club, picking up 6 1/2 sacks.


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