Updated: April 17, 2014, 5:36 PM ET
Jane McManus | ESPNNewYork.com
After sitting on the market for 12 days and hearing a year’s worth of whispers about his declining value as a running back, Chris Johnson comes to the New York Jets resolved to prove the doubters wrong.
“I know there’s a lot of people out there who believe in me, including the Jets, that’s why they wanted to bring me in,” Johnson said Thursday on a conference call. “But there are still a lot of people out there who say how they’re going to feel, but I don’t see how you can say some of the type things they say about a guy who runs for almost 1,100 yards on a torn meniscus.
“But [for] a player like myself that has accomplished so much in his career, it’s always great to have things to put a chip on your shoulder, have things to motivate you. I can turn a bad thing that people say into a good thing for me, to get me motivated, keep me hungry and keep a chip on my shoulder and prove the naysayers wrong.”
Johnson was signed Wednesday to a two-year deal worth a potential $9 million, a league source told ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter. There have been questions about how productive Johnson can be given his declining production and his surgery in January to a repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.
His knee is healing, and Johnson said he would soon be cleared to resume football activities. The Jets begin their offseason training program next week.
Asked if he was concerned about whether he would be ready to participate during training camp, Johnson said he had “no concern.”
Johnson also denied a report that he had arthritis in his knee.
“No, that’s not accurate,” he said before laughing.
“If they had major concern in my knee, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have passed the physical.”
Johnson spent his first six seasons with the Tennessee Titans and rushed for at least 1,000 yards in each, including 2,006 in 2009. Last season, he had 1,077 yards on 279 carries and 42 catches for 345 yards.
“I know the type of player I am, and it’s a situation — once you run for 2,000 yards, you set an expectation for yourself,” Johnson said. “So anytime you don’t get 2,000 yards, it’s a situation where people are going to say, ‘Oh, is he the same guy? Is he this, is he that’? … [Once] you run for 2,000 yards, the whole focus is on you, to stop you.”
When teams key on a player, Johnson said, that player may have fewer yards but he’s more valuable to the offense given that defenses have to commit so many resources to stop him.
Johnson said he picked the Jets after meeting with coach Rex Ryan and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.
“They know how to win over there, ” Johnson said. “The type of team that they had last year, they got a great defense. Anytime you have a great defense, you give yourself a great chance at winning.
“We know as an organization if we’re able to put up points, then that will give us a good chance at winning. So I felt I would be able to fit that mold and come there and help the offense.”
The Jets still retain running backs Chris Ivory (182 carries for 833 yards in 2013), Bilal Powell (176 for 697) and Mike Goodson (seven for 61). It is unlikely they will keep all four.
Goodson has been a disappointment after being the first major signing of the John Idzik era. The back was signed last March to a three-year deal worth $6.9 million, but soon after that he was arrested after being found unresponsive in the passenger seat of a vehicle stopped in the left lane of Interstate 80 in New Jersey. Goodson has another court date set for May 19 stemming from the resulting gun and drug charges.
After serving a four-game suspension to start the 2013 season, Goodson played in two games and then sustained a season-ending knee injury.
“They’ll put everybody in the best positions to help the Jets win,” Johnson said. “And that is what really matters and [what] interested me in going to a team that is a winning program and has a chance of being a contender.”
Jane McManus has covered New York sports since 1998 and began covering football just before Brett Favre’s stint with the Jets. Her work has appeared in Newsday, USA Today, The Journal News and The New York Times. Follow Jane on Twitter.