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Former Cardinals DB Tyrann Mathieu tells David Johnson to ‘come to KC’

(Getty Images)

As drama always does, it starts off with a vague tweet or Instagram post.

And when the people who know the poster best see it and react, it makes it easier for fans to read between the lines.

An interaction was open to interpretation on Tuesday night between the Arizona Cardinals’ David Johnson, who has lost his role as the No. 1 running back, and former teammate Tyrann Mathieu of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Standing by itself, Johnson’s post might have something to do with all those Pittsburgh Steelers fans who showed up at State Farm Stadium last week.

But it could also fit the narrative surrounding the running back: that he’s not pleased with the Cardinals relegating him to second in the running back pecking order behind newcomer Kenyan Drake. Mathieu’s response offering a way out of that situation by joining the Chiefs doesn’t help the interpretation if Johnson meant the former.

Johnson confirmed Wednesday it was the former.

“I was looking at the photo and there was a lot of Steeler fans. Even on the way to the game, there were Steeler fans at our hotel, there were Steeler fans everywhere,” he said. “You know I have a list of lyrics that I like from Christian rappers and I saw the photo and it seemed pretty accurate.

“And then also fantasy. As you can tell … that’s probably all I get on social media. A little bit of that as well.”

The running back added that Mathieu’s plea is “gratifying” but that he’s focused on helping the Cardinals.

Johnson did that this past Sunday against the Steelers, seeing the field on 22 snaps to Drake’s 39 and even scoring on a receiving touchdown late in the game.

But just two games before that, Johnson received no touches in a Week 11 game against the San Francisco 49ers. After the fact, Johnson tweeted a frustrated “Welp…” before his wife, Meghan, expressed disappointment in watching Johnson stand on the sidelines.

“In EIGHT football seasons… that was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to watch. SO MUCH TALENT. On a bench. we love you @davidjohnson31,” she wrote.

She later deleted all but the last sentence on the post.

All the while, Kingsbury has maintained that he and the coaching staff want to get a better look at Drake this season before he reaches free agency. But the Cardinals coach has also expressed a desire to find snaps for all of Drake, Johnson and fellow running back Chase Edmonds.

Against Pittsburgh, Johnson had three carries for 19 yards, plus two receptions for 34 yards, including his 24-yard touchdown catch. At times, the Cardinals ran all three backs out on the field at once.

“We wanted to see what we could get out of some of those different packages,” Kingsbury said Monday. “At times it was effective, and at times it wasn’t. I think ‘KD’ (Kenyan Drake) and David (Johnson) had solid games. They all three need to be better at times in blocking and being physical, and I think when they watch the film, they’ll understand that. Three guys that can all carry the load if you need them to, and we’ll continue to find ways to utilize them.”

Johnson is under contract through 2021 and next season has a base salary of $10.2 million with a roster bonus of another $1.1 million. If he’s truly unhappy with the Cardinals and vice versa, those figures mean it’s hard to see the Chiefs making a trade for a player who by the stat sheets and eye test hasn’t been playing up to his contract.

Johnson reiterated that he’s displeased with losing playing time and doesn’t agree with the reason — which he’ll keep private — for losing playing time.

“We know what we expect out of each other. I feel pretty good but obviously still not playing a lot,” he said. “Feel a little bit better than how it’s been the last couple of weeks.”


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