Ravens

Johnson plans to play vs Jags despite sore ankle

Johnson plans to play vs Jags despite sore ankle

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The only game Chris Johnson has missed in the NFL came when Tennessee sidelined the running back in 2008 to prep for the playoffs.

He isn't about to let a sore right ankle sideline him now.

Johnson said Thursday he takes pride in showing his durability in a league where nearly every player deals with injuries. He calls himself ``a go'' for Sunday's season finale against the Jaguars (2-13) despite missing a second straight practice Thursday after hurting his ankle last week in a 55-7 loss in Green Bay.

``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. I still want to go out and fight with my teammates,'' Johnson said.

The running back already has 1,187 yards rushing this season despite an offensive line missing four starters from the preseason. That ranks as his fourth-best season with a game left in a rebound from last year when he had a career-low 1,047 yards after signing a $53.5 million extension.

Johnson would need one of his best games to do it, but he could join Eric Dickerson, LaDainian Tomlinson and Emmitt Smith as the only NFL players to run for 7,000 yards in their first five seasons with 168 yards rushing. He has run for that many yards once in his career with four games better than that. He currently has 6,832 yards rushing.

``That'd be very nice,'' Johnson said. ``Anytime you can set a record and have your name up there with Hall of Famer type of guys, it's always a great accomplishment to have under your belt.''

He'll be running against a Jacksonville defense that ranks 31st against the run allowing 145.1 yards per game. The Jaguars have given up more than 200 yards rushing three times this season, though they did get back linebacker Daryl Smith last week against New England where they allowed only 103 yards total.

If Johnson starts Sunday as he expects, this will be his fourth straight season starting all 16 games. That dependability is why coach Mike Munchak expects Johnson to play against Jacksonville. Munchak called Johnson's streak amazing considering his size at 5-foot-11 and 191 pounds to go along with 1,442 rushing attempts and 229 career catches.

``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 ...,'' Munchak said. ``Hopefully he'll be able to finish up this season with a big game.

With all the offensive line injuries and the Titans (5-10) losing six of their last eight games, Johnson's future with the franchise has been the topic of heavy speculation. A clause in his contract allows the Titans to release him within the first five days of the new league year after the Super Bowl or $9 million of his $10 million salary for 2013 will be guaranteed.

Johnson's contract goes through 2016, and the Titans still see him as one of their best players.

``He's our playmaker,'' Munchak said last week. ``He's the guy everyone knows when you travel around. He's the first guy people want to know about, so you want the running game to do well.''

That hasn't stopped Johnson from being asked about his future repeatedly, and the 27-year-old running back has deflected questions on whether he wanted to be traded and what team he wanted to play for. Even Thursday, Johnson said he's focusing only on Sunday's game and not worrying about any changes that might happen on the roster or the coaching staff after such a turbulent season.

He noted offensive coordinator Chris Palmer was fired, Jake Locker was named the starter at quarterback only to get hurt and replaced by Matt Hasselbeck. Locker's return also was mixed in with the constant changes on the offensive line due to injuries.

``It's a situation I can't worry about,'' Johnson said. ``All I can worry about is the team and try to get a victory.''

Notes: Munchak said TE Craig Stevens (concussion) is highly questionable for the finale with LB Colin McCarthy (concussion) likely out again too. WR Kendall Wright (rib) practiced fully and expects to play. RB Jamie Harper (ankle) did not practice along with LB Will Witherspoon (chest), WR Damian Williams (foot) and C Kevin Matthews (right ankle). Munchak expects Witherspoon, Johnson, Harper and possibly Williams to practice Friday.

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

Dominant defense earns Ravens' Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors

zadarius-smith-ap.png
AP Images

Dominant defense earns Ravens' Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors

The defensive performance on display by the Baltimore Ravens Sunday against the Tennessee Titans in a 21-0 shutout win was flat out historic. So historic that it's earned linebacker Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

A franchise-record 11 sacks were laid on quarterback Marcus Mariota during the Week 6 matchup, with Smith leading the way with three of them.   

So far this season the 26-year-old has 20 combined tackles, 5.5 sacks, and one forced fumble. As someone who is in the final year of his rookie NFL contract, he's certainly proving he is worthy of getting paid this offseason. 

"It feels great, man. It's big," Smith said of the honor during media availability Wednesday. "I know when I first found out I called my mom and she was already looking at it. But I called her and she was trying to congratulate me and was like 'who would've ever thought the guy that played one year of high school football would be where he at now and making so many goals.'"

But earning AFC Defensive Player of the Week isn't the only goal Smith has in mind. His performance through the first six weeks and assisting the No. 1 ranked scoring defense is just a stepping stone to the ultimate honor.

"I was telling her, 'Ma you know this is a good self-goal but my main goal is to get us to the Super Bowl.'" 

The road to the Super Bowl for Smith and the Ravens continues this Sunday vs. Drew Brees and the Saints. 

MORE RAVENS NEWS:

Quick Links

4 things to watch as the Caps host the Rangers

ovi-kuzy-usat.jpg
USA Today

4 things to watch as the Caps host the Rangers

The Caps return to action Wednesday as they host the New York Rangers (7 p.m., NBCSN) in a Metropolitan Division clash.

Here are four things you should be watching for in this game.

The schedule finally gives the Caps a break

The early season schedule for Washington has been bizarre to say the least. Finally, they will be catching a break on Wednesday as the Rangers will be playing in the second leg of a back-to-back.

That certainly does not guarantee a victory, but it is something the Caps are very aware of and they hope to take advantage.

“I think speed is a big part of the game and for them to be fatigued off the back-to-back is definitely going to help us whether we move the puck a little quicker than we would in other games just kind of knowing they are coming off that back-to-back,” Nathan Walker said.

“We've got to make them skate, we've got to make their D go back for pucks,” T.J. Oshie said. “I don't feel like they're going to look tired at the start of the game, usually that comes towards the end of the game, second half, and so you've got to work to drain them down a little bit and we've got to take advantage of that opportunity tonight.”

Top-line Stephenson

Stephenson was added to the top line on Saturday with no practice other than the morning skate that day. A few days between games has given him a chance to practice with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov and it should pay dividends on Wednesday.

This game also should be a good opportunity for Stephenson who was added to the top for his speed. Playing a tired Rangers team is something he will need to take advantage of.

“It's always tough to play back-to-back and with the travel and stuff like that,” Stephenson said. “For the most part, I think that that's going to be important and just to play a full 60, that's something that we want to get consistent with and we haven't been so far … But for the most part, I think the start will really help us tonight.”

Nathan Walker returns

The Caps made a change to the lineup for Wednesday’s game as Nathan Walker will be in for Dmitrij Jaskin on the fourth line.

When asked why he made the change, Reirden said, “Just a different look. A team that's on a back-to-back, we wanted to really come at them with some speed, tenacity and intensity that we know we always get from Nathan so thought it was a good add into tonight's lineup.

The Caps have got to get more offense from their bottom six and adding the speedy Walker to the bottom six could provide a boost. He has had trouble playing within the system in the past and his play has been more frenzied than controlled at times, but with Tom Wilson still suspended, there’s definitely an opportunity for Walker to earn more playing time depending on how he plays Wednesday.

King Henry remains on his throne

In addition to a tired Rangers team, the Caps are also expected to face a tired goalie.

Henrik Lundqvist started New York’s game on Tuesday and is expected to start again on Wednesday against Washington. That is not confirmed as the Rangers did not have a morning skate because of the back-to-back, but it is believed Lundqvist will play again.

There was a time when Lundqvist was considered the best netminder in the NHL and he is off to a phenomenal start this season with a 1.99 GAA and .939 save percentage in five games thus far.

But how will the 36-year-old goalie handle a back-to-back?

MORE CAPITALS NEWS: