CINCINNATI - Larry Johnson might have his career up and running sooner than expected.
The running back who was banished from Kansas City for bad behavior signed on for a backup role with the Cincinnati Bengals on Tuesday, giving the AFC North leaders depth for the rest of this season. He might not be watching for long.
A day after coach Marvin Lewis referred to Johnson as an insurance policy in case of injury, he said it’s possible the running back could play in some form Sunday in Oakland if starter Cedric Benson is still limited by a strained hip.
“I’m not saying that it can’t happen, I’m not saying that it will happen, but stay tuned,” Lewis said, with Johnson sitting by his side. “He’d like to play, I know that. And we’ll see what happens as we go through the week, as I said earlier, regarding Cedric with his injury.”
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Johnson has his own goal for getting on the field: Dec. 27, when the Bengals play the Chiefs at Paul Brown Stadium. That could set up the second get-even game for a Bengals running back this season. Benson was carrying a grudge when he ran for a career-high 189 yards against his former team, the Chicago Bears, on Oct. 25.
Johnson is toting one too.
“I’d be lying if I said I ain’t looking at that game as a game I want to definitely play in, but we take it a game at a time, one situation at a time,” Johnson said. “I’m just trying to get on the field as of right now. If that happens, it’d be the best Christmas gift I can get.”
The Bengals waived defensive tackle Orien Harris to open a roster spot for Johnson, who knew he’d be listed fourth on the depth chart to start.
“I have to work my way back up,” Johnson said. “You have to earn your stripes, literally, in the situation I’m in.”
The signing came eight days after the Chiefs let him go.