- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Titans running back Chris Johnson, who stayed away from the team last offseason in a contract dispute, practiced with more than 50 others in a player-organized minicamp session Wednesday.
Afterward at Father Ryan High School, Johnson said it took no prodding for him to return to Nashville to work out for the first time since the season ended, that he wants to help the team improve and that his contract is not on his mind.
"I really didn't come out here to try to prove a point," he said. "I came out to get a good workout in and to try to get the team better."
Johnson said even if there wasn't a lockout and if it was an official OTA that he would have attended.
That's a much different tone than the one Johnson adopted last year, when he said he couldn't play for a low (and scheduled) base salary coming off a 2,000-yard rushing season. Ultimately, the Titans moved money he would have eventually made to his salary to satisfy him.
Johnson indicated then he would expect a new deal for 2011. Under the league's old rules, he could not receive a new deal until a year had passed since the July 2010 renegotiation.
Safety Michael Griffin said Wednesday that he thought Johnson recognized the difference between a player workout and an organizational one.
But players were betting on whether he would show.
Johnson worked with four other backs in position, seven-on-seven, and team drills, then ran sprints with the backs and Griffin.
"I know he wants to make sure he's taken care of personally with the money situation," said Javon Ringer, Johnson's backup. "But with him showing up it also shows that he's very concerned about the team and the success of this team and his contribution to the team. He's not a selfish guy.
"It was a good feeling seeing him out there. It was a surprise to me as well. I'm really happy he showed up."
The contract could become an issue once there is some sort of agreement that reunites players with their teams. That would be bad news for the Titans, who plan to be very run-oriented under first-year coach Mike Munchak.
One place Johnson indicated the team might save money is on a veteran quarterback, because he believes rookie Jake Locker will play immediately.
"Everybody knows he's going to be the starting quarterback, so we need him to be ready come Game 1," Johnson said. "He was a top 10 pick and they got rid of Vince Young, so of course he's going to be the quarterback. Everybody knows that."
Paul Kuharsky covers the AFC South for ESPN.com.