And so it remains to be seen whether Johnson will be welcomed back into the fold and — perhaps more importantly — onto the field.
As we pointed out last week, the Chiefs cannot tell Johnson to stay home with pay, unless of course he would agree to do so. Thus, as of Monday, November 9, he’ll be permitted to rejoin the team like any other active member of the 53-man roster.
The murkier question relates to the team’s ability to deactivate Johnson on game days. But while, as Chris Mortensen of ESPN reported over the weekend, the NFLPA is ready to file another grievance if Johnson isn’t returned to the starting lineup, a league source tells us that Johnson and his agent currently are prepared to accept any decision to deactivate Johnson.
“There’s nothing they can do,” the source said. “It’s the coach’s decision.”
A decision to deactivate Johnson would entail more than Johnson standing in street clothes (or, in the case of Jevon Kearse, leaving the stadium). Johnson has a per-game roster bonus that pays him more than $60,000 per game, but only if he is on the active game-day roster. If he is deactivated, he loses that money.
Even if the union is able to persuade Johnson to fight the matter, there’s a point at which the ability of the coach to run his team overcomes the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Previously, an arbitrator was unwilling to find that teams cannot send players home with pay. The union thereafter inserted language into the labor agreement preventing this tactic.
But the new language says nothing about the decisions that are made regarding the men who will dress and those who won’t for games — or of those who dress, those who will start and those who will play.
Meanwhile, there’s an online petition (novel concept) urging G.M. Scott Pioli to keep Johnson on ice for one important reason — he’s only 80 yards away from becoming the franchise’s all-time leading rusher, and plenty of fans don’t want Johnson’s name in the organization’s record book.