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Edwards: Johnson Is No. 1 -- Regardless Of Holmes' Status...
As Topeka Capital-Journal beat writer Rick Dean framed it this morning: "Tuesday was Good News Day for Chiefs running back Larry Johnson."

It began with Johnson's first meeting with new head coach Herman Edwards, who informed his Pro Bowl running back that he would be the featured back next year regardless of the availability of Priest Holmes.

"He told me I would be the guy going into training camp and that I should start the season prepared to start," said Johnson.

"He said, I want to tell you this now that when we get going, you'll have to be the guy on this team who is the leader and gets things done," Johnson added during a Wednesday appearance on ESPN's "Cold Pizza" show.

Johnson finished the season with nine straight 100-yard games, 1,750 yards and 20 touchdowns (plus one receiving) after Holmes was put on the disabled list Nov. 9 with head and neck trauma.

The Chiefs are still awaiting word from Holmes about whether he intends to play next year. The veteran superstar is in turn awaiting the results from his latest round of neurological tests before deciding whether he will play next year -- as a backup to Johnson -- at the age of 33.

The team's all-time rusher, Holmes said in November that he plans to play next season if those tests show encouraging results.

"Pounding is just a part of football. But I love this sport and it's really been very good to me. I'm not one to look 20 or 30 years down the road. I really look at the next two, three, five years. I really see myself playing, hoping the situation with the tests I take in the next 60 days comes back positive. Regardless of that, I still have to sit down and make a decision."

Holmes saw specialists in California and Florida after sustaining a concussion on Oct. 30 and was told to avoid contact for at least 30 days. His 27 touchdowns in 2003 are a single-season record and the 66 touchdowns he scored from 2002-04 are the most in any three-year period.

The injury, which he described as a pressure on his spine, has never been painful and is not necessarily a threat to cause paralysis, he said.

"The main concern was that [doctors] wanted to know if there was pressure on the spine," he said. "If there's pressure on the spine, of course if you're hit there's a number of things that could possibly happen. Would those things happen to me? It hasn't happened yet.

"So I'm very, very confident about the recovery time and the number of things I have to go through."

As noted this morning, Johnson sulked about having to play behind Holmes for most of his first two seasons as a pro. Many wrote him off as just a hotheaded kid who didn't know what he was talking about. But now that he has gotten his chance to be the featured back, he has backed up everything he said -- and then some.

"I predicted what Larry would be in his rookie year, sitting behind closed doors," then head coach Dick Vermeil said in December. "The only thing I asked him to do was be patient and take the time it takes to become what you have the ability to be.

"He was very impatient. Part of it was caused by his passion to play the game. Part of it was caused because we had a great running back in Priest Holmes. ..."

But now, with Holmes aging and his future uncertain, the tables are turned with Johnson heading into 2006 with the featured role. ...

In a related note. ... Johnson also learned Tuesday that prosecutors in Kansas City were dropping assault charges filed against him after a Sept. 10 incident in a Plaza bar.

Johnson was charged after a former girlfriend said she was shoved by Johnson after she confronted him in the presence of another woman. Johnson's attorney, Kevin Regan, said the women later recanted her story to police. Prosecutors tried to pursue the case, but ultimately asked for two continuances before finally dropping charges.

"It is what it is," Johnson told the Kansas City Star on Wednesday of the dropped charge. "It's over."

Johnson already was involved in a two-year diversion program following a 2003 incident in which he was accused of slapping a woman and threatening her with a gun in his Johnson County home.

A conviction in Kansas City might have led to his being found in violation of the diversion agreement. ...

Also of interest. ... According to Dean, more signs continue to point to the elevation of Mike Solari from offensive line coach to offensive coordinator.

This after the Redskins swooped in and hired Al Saunders as offensive coordinator and assistant head coach today.

With only two head coaching opportunities left -- Oakland and Buffalo -- Saunders was fielding a lot of phone calls by teams and coaches who wanted him as their offensive coordinator.

The biggest surprise was the arrival of Skins head coach Joe Gibbs in Kansas City on Wednesday. Not surprising, however, is owner Daniel Snyder's willingness to pony up big dollars for high-end assistants.

According to insider John Clayton, the Redskins will pay Saunders in the range of $2 million a year. ...

Meanwhile, Edwards on Wednesday was expected to interview John Matsko, the offensive line coach for the past seven years in St. Louis, for a similar position in Kansas City.

That would suggest that Solari, the Chiefs line coach since 1997, is either moving up or out.

Sources at Arrowhead are confident that Solari, who was an offensive coordinator at the University of Pittsburgh in 1986, a year after he ended a three-year stint at Kansas, will remain in Kansas City.

According to Pro Football Weekly, the Chiefs could go a long way toward persuading offensive guard Will Shields to return for another year if they were to elevate Solari to the coordinator position, but Shields' health probably will be the ultimate deciding factor. ...

Also according to PFW, the Chiefs' signing of CFL star quarterback Casey Printers to a three-year, $1.03 million deal is an intriguing one.

The team was looking for a quarterback of the future to begin to develop behind Trent Green, and Printers' athletic skills have drawn comparisons to Michael Vick and Vince Young.

While he's not quite in the class of those two, the Chiefs are excited to have a solid 24-year-old prospect with three years of experience in professional football under his belt. And they have him relatively cheap. ...

One last note here. ... Speaking on the "Budweiser Hot Seat" on ESPN last Wednesday, Pro Bowl tight end tight end Tony Gonzalez voiced a refrain expressed by several teammates in the wake of Vermeil's retirement announcement.

That is, that some Chiefs may have taken advantage of Vermeil's overly forgiving nature toward his players.

Asked what quality he wanted to see most from Edwards, Gonzalez said, "a little more discipline.

"Coach Vermeil was a great people person; it was his strongest attribute," Gonzalez added. "But some guys might have taken advantage of that. I don't see that happening with coach Edwards."

Gonzalez might want to talk to some of Edwards' previous charges before climbing too far out on that limb.

Jets center Kevin Mawae said on Jan. 11 that he loved playing for Edwards, but the veteran center wanted the next coach of the Jets to give more tough love.

"I would want someone to come in and be a little more forceful, a little more of disciplinarian, put the hammer down-type of coach," Mawae told the New York Post (well before Eric Mangini was hired as Edwards' replacement). "I loved playing for Herm and his style of coaching, but I think our team is a young team that needs a little bit more of a thumb-down on the guys kind of deal."