NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Chris Johnson says he started working out on his own shortly after the worst season of his career, motivated to bounce back strong.
He's not ready to make any predictions for 2012 until closer to the season. But he will try to attend most of the Tennessee Titans' offseason workouts.
The running back showed up Monday for the start of the Titans' offseason program. That's a big change from last year when he missed most of the preseason before signing a new contract extension that includes incentives for him to take part in most of the program.
"This is my first day out here," Johnson said. "Either way, no matter where I'm at, I'm going to work hard and things like that. It's kind of exciting to see how it works out."
Johnson ran for 1,047 yards last season as the Titans ranked 31st in the NFL averaging 89.9 yards rushing per game.
"Of course, it motivates me and makes me want to do better than last year," Johnson said. "I always like to get better and better every year. I feel like I didn't get better last year. There's a lot of things that go into it, but I'm not the type to make excuses and things like that. Basically, it's just working hard and trying to be better."
Johnson said he weighed in at 197 pounds, and he also plans a trip to California for some workouts as well.
The Titans seem to be doing their part to help Johnson improve the running game. They signed five-time All Pro Steve Hutchison as a free agent, and he is expected to slide in at left guard next to left tackle Michael Roos. Hutchison has blocked for NFL MVP Shaun Alexander in Seattle and Adrian Peterson in Minnesota.
Hutchison also was on hand Monday along with free agent signee defensive end Kamerion Wimbley. Hutchison said he's looking forward to working with Johnson after looking at him on film.
"I don't know if I'm the miracle answer for that, but I've been around some pretty good runners and had success on the teams I've been on running the ball. I do what I do," Hutchison said. "I like run blocking, I like running the ball. So we'll see what we can do."
Johnson said he's heard about Hutchison and hopes the addition helps get the running game going.
"It's a good thing to see the coaches want to make it better," Johnson said.
Matt Hasselbeck said the more Johnson is around, the more the three-time Pro Bowl running back can lead by example.
"For me, if I'm anywhere in Tennessee, kids have a question. The first question is, 'Do you have Chris Johnson's phone number?' They love him. They absolutely love him. I've been giving his phone number out everywhere I go," Hasselbeck joked.
The program also marks the beginning of an open quarterback competition between veteran Hasselbeck and Jake Locker, the eighth pick overall last spring. Coach Mike Munchak said the day after the Titans ended with a 9-7 record in his first season that Hasselbeck and Locker would compete for the starting job Hasselbeck held all of 2011.
Hasselbeck threw for 3,571 yards with 18 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Locker came off the bench and posted a 99.4 passer rating, throwing for 542 yards with four TDs and no interceptions. Hasselbeck had another quick quip when asked about competing with Locker.
"Oh, it's on baby. It's on," Hasselbeck said before turning serious. "No, I don't think anything really changes for us other than the fact we've got to talk about it because coach Munchak talked about it. ... Nothing's changing. Nothing's new but now we probably have to talk about it and people are going to write about it and want to talk about it. That's the only thing that's new."
Locker said having an offseason unlike last year due to the lockout will help him pick up the intricacies of the offense under coordinator Chris Palmer. His plan is to do everything possible to be the best player he can and help the Titans win games.
"We'll be pushing each other, and we will get the best out of each other," Locker said.