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Johnson's locker roped off by yellow tape

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ In an amusing twist to a possibly demoralizing controversy, the Kansas City Chiefs found yellow caution tape surrounding running back Larry Johnson's locker.

The kind of tape used to rope off disaster sites stretched about six feet into the room in front of the stall of Johnson on Wednesday. A first-round pick in 2003 who has been complaining about being a third stringer, Johnson was furious Tuesday when he was not traded by the NFL deadline.

``You can't do too much when you have an offensive coordinator who doesn't trust you and a head coach who never wanted you in the first place,'' Johnson was quoted as saying in The Kansas City Star on Wednesday.

Johnson insisted the tape was an idea he and fullback Tony Richardson hatched to try to lighten the situation for a 1-4 Chiefs team already under strain.

And it worked. Players coming in from practice roared at the joke.

I told T-Rich to do this. He was poking fun at me anyway,'' said Johnson, inactive for three of five games.We're just having fun about it. I told T-Rich we should do something, just be dumb about it, and that's what we did.''

It was not the first time Johnson had been embroiled in team controversy. Earlier this season, he lashed out at coach Dick Vermeil for not talking to him directly before telling reporters that it was time for Johnson to ``take off his diaper.''

But it was a contrite Johnson who stood behind the yellow tape and addressed the media.

People think I'm always back and forth with my head down and never smiling,'' he said.But I'm not like that. That day's over. So I've got to go on and continue with the rest of the season and let the chips fall where they may. I'm just out having fun in practice and whatever happens, happens.''

Richardson, whose locker is adjacent to that of Johnson and is an acknowledged team leader, said the idea was to keep things light.

That's what life is about,'' Richardson said.There are so many negative things that focus around life. If you can't have fun in life and have a smile on your face every day, then you need to go ahead and jump off a bridge because you're bringing everyone else around you down.

``That's not the attitude I've carried all my life and it's not the attitude around here.''

Johnson, a star at Penn State, had expected to be traded and told people privately that he was looking forward to it.

People are stressing you out,'' he explained.My dad's calling, my sister's calling, my brother's calling, my friends are calling: `What's going to happen?' You get so frustrated. It builds up.

``And after everything's done, then it's completely cool.''

Vermeil said later that he didn't even know about the yellow tape.

Those things are for you guys to make a living with, not me,'' he told reporters.The problem's been addressed. It's not a serious problem. It never has been. Our posture hasn't changed. We want the kid here. He's a good football player. In time, I think he'll prove it to everybody.''

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