LJ now happy to be in KC

Larry Johnson will head to Rivers Falls, Wisc., on Thursday for the start of training camp for the Kansas City Chiefs.

And he's thrilled about it. Six months ago, that seemed impossible.
Johnson's departure from Kansas City seemed inevitable after a rough 2008 season that was his sixth in a productive but rocky career in Kansas City.

Johnson requested a trade on numerous occasions in the past year.

Now, however, the standout running back wants to be in Kansas City. In his first comments about his change of heart, Johnson told ESPN.com that his rebirth in Kansas City is due to the arrival of general manager Scott Pioli, head coach Todd Haley and assistant head coach Maurice Carthon.

"I want to be here because of Scott Pioli's commitment to winning," Johnson said. "He has a no-nonsense approach and coach Haley's offensive system fits me. My decision to want to stay here is really based on what those guys are doing here."

Johnson was indirectly critical of the previous Kansas City regime. General manager Carl Peterson and coach Herm Edwards were not brought back after the Chiefs went 2-14 last season.

"These guys are going to put the players on the field who can best help the team. They are not going to worry about four or five years down the road," Johnson said. "There is a new excitement in Kansas City. I believe in these guys and what they are going to do to make the Chiefs a winner."

Johnson acknowledged that he had to work to gain the trust of the new Kansas City leadership. He said he had to shed his perception of being a "locker room cancer." He said he did so by "working my butt of and shutting my mouth."

Johnson attended the team's offseason workout program and tried to impress his coaches with his work ethic. He said he bonded with Carthon, who will oversee the team's running backs, as well as Haley.

"I think I fit their power running offense and I think I can be a workhorse in this system," Johnson said. "I'm very excited about the opportunity here."

Johnson, who'll turn 30 in November, was suspended a total of four games in 2008 by the Chiefs and the league after being arrested twice for incidents involving women in nightclubs. In March, he pled guilty to the two 2008 incidents and was sentenced to two years probation.

He had 874 yards on 193 carries (a 4.5 yard per carry average) in 2008. He believes he can become the 400-carry-a-season player he was in 2006 when he set an NFL record with 416 carries.

"The team is committed to running the ball and I think I'll be a big part of it," Johnson said. "I'm really happy to be part of it."

Bill Williamson covers the AFC West for ESPN.com.