Johnson surprised by Byner firing

Updated: January 27, 2010, 12:58 PM ET
By Paul Kuharsky | ESPN.com

Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson was surprised when he found out running backs coach Earnest Byner had been fired. But he thinks his former position coach will do well on the open job market, considering the 2,000-yard season he just added to Byner's resume.

Johnson I'm not sure why it happened or anything like that, but you've got to go with the head man's call, whatever he decides to do, he's the head coach.

-- Chris Johnson

"I'm not sure why it happened or anything like that, but you've got to go with the head man's call, whatever he decides to do, he's the head coach," Johnson said, deferring to coach Jeff Fisher's judgment in a conference call from the Pro Bowl. "You've got to trust in the decision that he makes, he's a great coach and everything like that."

Johnson said he's heard nothing but good things about new running backs coach Kennedy Pola from fellow AFC Pro Bowlers Maurice Jones-Drew and David Garrard and his friend Mike Sims-Walker, and remembers Kennedy working him out before the draft.

Fisher showed faith in Johnson by signing off on the Titans drafting him 24th overall in 2008, and Johnson said he has to believe Fisher is making the right moves.

It wasn't the running back's place to lobby for Byner, and he didn't have an opportunity to do so, he said.

"No matter what I have to say about the situation, it's not going to get him his job back or anything like that," Johnson said.

Johnson raised eyebrows in training camp when he said he would run for over 2,000 yards, then became just the sixth back to do it, finishing the season with 2,006.

He appeared to bond well with Byner, who, like Johnson, also played at East Carolina.

Fisher hired Byner in 2008 after Sherman Smith, an original member of his Houston Oilers staff, left to be Jim Zorn's offensive coordinator in Washington. Smith recently joined Seattle as running backs coach.

Indications are that Byner may have been a bit strong-willed and outspoken for Fisher's taste, but that it was the available replacement that prompted the move.

Fisher's long coveted Pola, who didn't sign an extension offered by Jacksonville during the season.

"It is hard because they let go of a good man in Earnest,'' Pola told The (Nashville) Tennessean. "It is the tough part of this business. But this was a great opportunity to work with Jeff, who I think is one of the top-tier coaches in the NFL."

Johnson is regarded by many as the fastest player in the NFL.

In Miami, Johnson said he's passing on any invitations to race, one which has already come from Chad Ochocinco.

"I will not be doing that, because I really don't have nothing to win or to gain," he said.

Paul Kuharsky covers the NFL for ESPN.com.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

ALSO SEE