Kansas City, Mo In an amusing twist to a possibly demoralizing controversy, the Kansas City Chiefs found yellow caution tape surrounding running back Larry Johnson's locker Wednesday.
The same tape that is used to rope off disaster sites stretched about six feet into the room in front of the stall of Johnson, who had blasted the organization the day before.
A first-round pick in 2003 who has been complaining about being third team, Johnson was furious Tuesday that he was not traded by the NFL deadline. He was quoted in the Kansas City Star on Wednesday morning saying, "You can't do too much when you have an offensive coordinator who doesn't trust you and a head coach who never wanted you in the first place."
Johnson insisted the tape was an idea that he and fullback Tony Richardson hatched together to try to lighten the situation for a 1-4 Chiefs team that already was under strain.
And it worked. Players coming in from practice roared at the joke.
"I told T-Rich to do this. He was poking fun at me anyway," said Johnson, who has been inactive for three of five games. "We're just having fun about it. I told T-Rich we should do something, just be dumb about it, and that's what we did."
It was not the first time Johnson had been embroiled in team controversy. Earlier this season, he lashed out at coach Dick Vermeil for not talking to him directly before telling reporters that it was time for Johnson to "take off his diaper."
But it was a contrite Johnson who stood behind the yellow tape and addressed the media.
"People think I'm always back-and-forth with my head down and never smiling," he said. "But I'm not like that. That day's over. ... So I've got to go on and continue with the rest of the season and let the chips fall where they may. I'm just out having fun in practice, and whatever happens, happens."
Johnson, a standout in college at Penn State, had expected to be traded and had told people privately that he was looking forward to it.
"People are stressing you out," he said. "My dad's calling, my sister's calling, my brother's calling, my friends are calling: 'What's going to happen?' You get so frustrated. It builds up.
"And after everything's done, then it's completely cool."
Vermeil said later he didn't even know about the yellow tape.