Football is a business. But for Chris Johnson, this is personal.
After six seasons, nearly 8,000 rushing yards and 58 total touchdowns, the Tennessee Titans deemed him disposable last offseason. And he'd love nothing more than to show his former team that he's still got it.
"Of course I want to go out there and tear it up and show them what they missed out on, make them regret it," Johnson said as he and the Jets prepared for Sunday's game in Nashville. "But I'm not going to go into the game and try to make it me versus them."
The competitor in Johnson, however, already is gearing up for a return to his old stamping grounds. His tenure in Tennessee was littered with highlight-reel clips and breakout performances. A three-time Pro Bowler, Johnson rushed for 2,006 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2009, earning the NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award and his first and only All-Pro selection.
"I had some of the best seasons of my career down in Tennessee," he said on a conference call this past week. "I'm glad they gave me the opportunity to make my dream come true. But it kind of ended a little ugly."
After the Titans cut him in April, he signed a two-year deal with the Jets. He's scheduled to earn a base salary of $3.5 million next season, but it's unclear if the Jets plan to bring him back in 2015.
"I wasn't given a reason,'' Johnson said of his release from Tennessee. "I feel like I did all the right things. I've never really been a vocal leader, but I always led by example. I played every game no matter how hurt I was. I had a torn meniscus my last year, and I think I only sat out two practices and played the whole season. So I'm not really sure."
The Jets still believed he could be a game-changer. Rex Ryan had watched helplessly from the sideline as Johnson torched his defense for 122 yards on 22 carries in the Titans' 14-10 win on Monday Night Football in 2012. The running back -- who paid tribute to the 26 victims in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting by writing their names on his cleats that night, only three days after the tragedy -- also broke off a 94-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that night.
Ryan jokingly said, "I thought about tackling him myself, but I couldn't get there."
"Somebody messed up," Calvin Pace said with a smile. "Seriously. Somebody messed up and he went 94. But he's always been a home run threat, a guy who will take a run and make it a touchdown, where a lot of guys will make it a 20-, 30-yard run."
Johnson has had a relatively quiet year for the Jets, aside from his lone 100-yard game of the year -- 105 yards on 17 carries against the Dolphins on Dec. 1. But though Johnson primarily has been used as Chris Ivory's backup, Pace still believes he has big-play ability.
"Yeah, he's still got it in him," he said, adding that the coaching staff likely has devised some specific plays to get Johnson going Sunday. "Hopefully he can have a good day."