Examining Chris Johnson's knee issue

New York Jets running back Chris Johnson, refuting an ESPN report, said last week he doesn't have arthritis in his surgically repaired knee. A well-known orthopedist begs to differ with Johnson.

David Chao, a former NFL team physician, writes in his weekly column for National Football Post there's "no doubt" that Johnson has arthritis. Chao hasn't examined Johnson's knee; his opinion is based on 17 years in the league. He offers perspective, suggesting arthritis isn't an uncommon ailment for football players and doesn't necessarily spell trouble for Johnson. The doctor writes:

Johnson reportedly had January knee arthroscopic surgery for a torn meniscus that he played with during the 2013 season. Often, these surgeries are done at year-end. The former Tennessee ball-carrier has only missed one game in his six-year NFL career.

Arthritis carries a very negative connotation in the sports world. We all think of arthritis as it relates to the geriatric population, but actually it is defined as any (even minor) damage to the articular cartilage. Articular cartilage in our knees can be equated to tread on our car tires.

There is no doubt Johnson has arthritis in his knee, but that doesn’t mean Jets fans should worry. After six years of playing NFL football and a knee scope, there is no doubt Johnson has some wear and tear. The ultimate question is how much.

The Jets signed Johnson to a two-year, $8 million contract, including a $3 million guarantee in the form of a signing bonus. We'll know in the middle of next February if they want to keep Johnson around for the second year. There's a $500,000 option bonus that must be exercised at least 22 days before the start of the 2015 league year. If the Jets aren't happy for whatever reason, they can cut him and take a $1.5 million cap hit next year.

A breakdown of his contract:


  • Signing bonus: $3 million

  • Base salary: $1 million

  • Cap charge: $2.75 million


  • Option bonus: $500,000

  • Base salary: $3.5 million

  • Cap charge: $5.25 million