Kansas City, Mo. Running back Larry Johnson reacted sharply Wednesday to remarks that Kansas City coach Dick Vermeil said were made at least partly in jest.
In his weekly news conference Tuesday, Vermeil said it would be time for the seldom-used Johnson to "take the diapers off" if he played this week in place of an injured Priest Holmes.
Holmes was nursing a sore ankle Wednesday and remained questionable for Sunday's game against Houston.
Johnson, a first-round draft pick out of Penn State, has expressed unhappiness before over not playing. He dismissed the suggestion that Vermeil was trying to motivate him.
"I don't need no motivation," he said. "If I need motivation, I'll talk to my father. I don't need another grown man telling me I need to take the diapers off. That's not how I've been raised, and I don't need no motivation from anybody. I'm self-motivated because my father taught me to be that way."
Johnson has played sparingly behind Holmes, even dropping to third team behind Derrick Blaylock. His father, Larry Johnson Sr., is defensive line coach at Penn State.
"I don't really listen to that kind of stuff," the younger Johnson said. "If the man can't say something in my face, that's how I feel. It don't mean nothing to me."
Vermeil, whose 0-2 team already has been beset by distractions and injuries, said the remark "just popped into my scrambled head."
"He's got some pressure on him now because if Priest doesn't play, he's going to be carrying a load, and it's a lot of responsibility that so far he has a way to go to prove he can handle it," Vermeil said. "And I'm looking forward to giving him the opportunity if Priest can't play."
Although the comment was made in jest, "in a way, there's a little truth to it," Vermeil said.
"I like Larry and I see his talent. And I've spent more time with Larry Johnson than all my roster combined in the last two years, and so has everybody else in this building. And sooner or later he's going to recognize that," Vermeil said.
Vermeil made it clear the day Johnson was drafted that he would have preferred to take a defensive player. But Holmes was coming off hip surgery, and the organization decided it needed insurance at running back.
Johnson had only 20 carries last year for 85 yards, including one 15-yard touchdown run.
"Yes, it's a little frustrating when they bring you here and they can't tell you whether you're going to play or you're not going to play," Johnson said. "That's just how I feel. By no means I'm going to stop going hard here and going hard every day in practice. It's just something that's frustrating right now and would be to anybody who's in my position."
Vermeil said he understood Johnson's frustration.
"The kid wants to play football badly. He loves to play," Vermeil said. "But in this league they just don't automatically retire Priest Holmes."