Monday September 12th, 2011

Chris Johnson's first game after a lengthy holdout was less than stellar. (Matt Stamey/US Presswire)

Turns out, even the league's best players could use some practice time. After missing the entire preseason in a contract squabble with the Titans, Chris Johnson didn't exactly earn his monster paycheck Sunday in Jacksonville.

In an uninspiring 16-14 loss to the Jaguars, Johnson tallied just 49 total yards -- a mere 24 of which came on his nine carries.

Titans offensive coordinator Chris Palmer hinted earlier in the week that Johnson's workload would stay low, saying that "conditioning-wise, you have to be concerned ... You have to bring him along and not overload him ..." It was still shocking to see the former 2,000-yard rusher get just four carries in the first half.

Of course, Johnson didn't do much on those four carries to warrant a commitment to the ground game, gaining three yards. Johnson saw a few more looks in the second half, especially in the passing game, but was pulled in the fourth quarter with Tennessee in the red zone in favor of Jamie Harper.

To no one's surprise, Jacksonville more or less committed to making Titans QB Matt Hasselbeck win the game. He finished 21-of-34 for 263 yards and two touchdowns, but the Titans were shut out before halftime and Hasselbeck threw an awful interception in the waning seconds as Tennessee tried to get in field goal range.

But the whole reason that the Titans ponied up so much dough for Johnson this summer was because they know, as well as everyone else, that they can't win without their star running back playing at his best. Johnson was in far less than top form Sunday, and the results on the field reflected that for him and his team.

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