KAPOLEI, Hawaii -- Rudi Johnson hopes the Cincinnati Bengals believe he has many more Pro Bowl seasons in him -- and the running back also hopes the
Bengals will give him a contract to keep him around for all of them.
Johnson, who will play for the AFC squad in Sunday's all-star game, repeated his desire to sign a new long-term contract with the Bengals before he
becomes an unrestricted free agent next month.
But unless his agent can work out a deal, the Bengals are likely to designate Johnson as their franchise player just two months after he broke Corey
Dillon's franchise record with 1,454 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns. That could lead to a holdout -- but Johnson is still holding out hope for a
"Hopefully we'll get something done," Johnson said. "If not, we'll see what happens. From day one, I've been saying I wanted to stay in Cincinnati, so
hopefully we'll get it done. We've got some work to do, but hard work never hurt anybody."
His looming contract negotiation hasn't detracted from his first visit to Hawaii. The fourth-year pro was added to the AFC roster last week after the
New York Jets' Curtis Martin was forced to skip the game with an injury.
"I want to get over here next year and the year after that," Johnson said. "It's my first (Pro Bowl), but I don't want it to be my last. I have to
stay focused and stay on the right path."
If Johnson is designated the Bengals' franchise player, it would limit the negotiations to a one-year contract offer worth more than $6.3 million.
Johnson's agent, Peter Schaffer, told the Cincinnati Enquirer last week that Johnson might sit out the season if the Bengals used the franchise tag on
Johnson wouldn't comment on that possibility Thursday, but repeatedly stated his desire to be a large part of Cincinnati's improvements from
consecutive 8-8 seasons.
"I want to be there and help them get over the hump," Johnson said. "I started the whole thing, and I was there when coach (Marvin) Lewis came on
board, and I want to continue that."
Bengals receiver Chad Johnson and cornerback Tory James joined Rudi Johnson in Hawaii, and both teammates believe the running back should be back. If
he leaves, first-round pick Chris Perry might be his replacement -- and Perry gained 1 yard this season while struggling with a hamstring injury and a
"We definitely need Rudi in the lineup," James said. "He was huge for us this year, and he's really coming into his own as a player. Hopefully, they
can work something out."
Johnson has become a fan favorite in Cincinnati for his no-frills style, and he's approaching the Pro Bowl with the same mentality. Though many young
NFL players travel to Hawaii for the parties and fun of Pro Bowl week even if they're not on the rosters, Johnson never considered it.
"The whole motto is you don't come over here until you come over here for the Pro Bowl," Johnson said.
But Johnson could get plenty of playing time in Sunday's game. Dillon, Martin and Indianapolis' Edgerrin James dropped out of the game with injuries,
leaving San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson and Pittsburgh's Jerome Bettis as the AFC's running backs.
"I'm just out here having a good time, talking to the guys and learning more," Johnson said. "It's all about learning. Hopefully we'll win. That's the
The Associated Press News Service