NFL Lockout Update: Chris Johnson Wants to Run Track?

On Wednesday, Tennessee Titans Running back Chris Johnson tweeted about his desire to run track in the event of a NFL Lockout.

He tweeted, “Boy they need to let me kno what’s gonna happen with this NFL lockout if they do ima join the us track team” [sic]

We all remember the buzz when he recorded a 4.24 40 yard dash as the 2008 NFL Combine.  I agree, that is fast.

You may recall the infamous “Chris Johnson vs. Usain Bolt” showdown that never happened.  Money talks, right?  And so does ego, too.


Before you start comparing apples to oranges, or rather a Fuji apple to a Spartan apple, you can’t compare the 40 yard dash Combine Test to a theoretical extrapolated 36.37 meter dash in the 100 meters.

Reasons (and there are many):

  1. running surface
  2. football cleats vs. track spikes
  3. reaction time is included in the 100 meters, anywhere from 0.100 to 0.170 seconds.
  4. no standard official timing device is used to record the 40 yard dash
  5. World class sprinters are still accelerating at the 40 yard point (or 36 meter mark)

Below is a chart that extrapolates the possible 40 yard dash time on the assumption the last 6.57 meters is an average running time of the 30-40m split.  They are still accelerating at that split.

As you can clearly see, if you subtract the reaction time to Usain Bolt or Maurice Green time, you have a time of 4.19 and 4.20 for a “40 yard dash”.  Even Ben Johnson has a 4.23 with no reaction time.  Make no mistake about it, Chris Johnson’s 4.24 is very fast.

And finally, what if you subtracted 0.14 from their FAT time to downward convert it to a hand time?  Races with the starting gun near the finish line requires a 0.14 factor, whereas a 100m starting line requires 0.24.  See my full article here

Are we looking at  4.0 or 4.1 hand time performances?

Fantasy League 40 Yard Dash time

But I like to remind everyone that  “Rocket” Raghib Ismail of Notre Dame ran 6.07 for 55 meters in Jan 1991, while Lee McRae (a true sprinter) of Pittsburgh holds the world record at 6.00 seconds set in 1986.  Rumour has it that Ismail ‘s 40 yard times were in the range of 4.05, 4.16 and 4.24.  However, he ran 10.40 for the 100 meters at Penn State later that year.

The bottom line is the 40 yard dash is a different “race” than a 55/60 meter dash, which is different than the 100 meters!

Jimson Lee

Jimson Lee

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I am a Masters Athlete and Coach currently based in London UK. My other projects include the Bud Winter Foundation, writer for the IAAF New Studies in Athletics Journal (NSA) and a member of the Track & Field Writers of America.
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
  • The fans are stuck in the middle as usual with the 2011 NFL Lockout with this situation having the twist that it appears that besides owners vs players, the 2011 NFL lockout has some owners vs other owners.

  • The other thing is that NFL Combine 40-yd times are well, rubbish.

    Here is how it works:

    A person starts a clock as soon as the athlete moves, and then the clock stops when they cross the line and break the laser.

    So not only is the individual runner’s reaction time not included, BUT there is also the reaction time of the person who starts the clock! The runner has been moving for a few tenths of a section before the clock even starts.

    You’d have to add about 0.2 for reaction time if the clock started when you broke a laser, but since it’s when a person starts the clock – well add another 0.24 for the conversion from HT to FAT.

    Meaning any 40-yard time has to be rounded up, so those 4.2x – are all 4.3s and then add at least 0.4 for the timing method.

    So really the 4.2x guys are all 4.7 guys in my view.

    Now is Chris Johnson fast?


    I’d be shocked if he couldn’t run 100m in around 10.2-10.4, but, 10.2-10.4 is a LONG ways away from being able to run with Gay, Bolt, Asafa, et al.

    Especially when he’s carrying 190-195 lbs on a 5’11” frame and the guys he’s racing weigh 20-30 lbs less, and are faster on top of it. All that extra mass is going to be a problem when you’re trying to continue to accelerate to the 60m mark and not slow down after.


  • i’m probably being oversensitive in feeling a little offended that Mr. Johnson thinks it’d be that simple to just waltz out and “join the us track team” like it’s some high school team. If Markham’s calculations are correct then Chris Johnson has a long line of collegians to get behind if he’s only capable of running 10.2

  • Agree wholeheartedly with Markham and Chris M.

    Well now we’ll get to see if Chris Johnson is true to his word and will put forth the effort to qualify for even training with the team since the 2011 NFL season is in official limbo. I believe that there are very, very few athletes in this world that could make a national sprint team regardless of where they are allied to qualify if so permitted.

    If one isn’t in full time training for a discipline in this day and age, that person has an unrealistic chance of offering a legitimate challenge. There are a number of high school 100m guys alone that would leave poor Chris in the dust. He should have snapped out of his daydreaming, secured a coach with a proven method and started training a few years ago. And that in itself guarantees nothing.

    Still, I wish him the best and it would be interesting if a camera crew followed him around for the next year if he is serious about qualifying for the U.S. team. I don’t watch reality shows but that would be one to consider. P.S. He’d better not train with the Jamaican squad, that will just discourage him from the first hour on. Their ‘C’ squad would make him feel pain.

  • While very fast and former track guy himslef, mister CJ cannot be sure to have the fastest 40y at combine…as stated, start is manual, so it could be a 4″34 or a 4″14..timing some hinderds opf videos from combine, It seems combine timing is on average 10-15/100 of a second slower than my manual timing, starting from back foot movement..So, about 0,50 faster than a FAT timing…Ben run a 3″7 in front of a Toronto Argonaut scout in 1987..
    I suppose CJ could run a very fast 60, but not a world class 100.( also, some doubts on the 10″36 in high school…mainly I found times above 10″60..still moving…)
    It would be more interesting to compare the 20-40 split of him and , for example, Jacoby Ford…I’m sure the latter would be waaaaaay faster.
    Bolt,I suppse he run 60y in less than 5″90..

  • Chris Johnson’s lifetime best times are 6.38 (60 meters), 10.38 (wind aided), 10.50 (wind legal) at 100 meters, and 21.30 at 200 meters. Compare that to Usain Bolt (9.58, 19.19), and it’s not close. In fact, Chris was beat by .20 seconds running against American Sprinter Walter Dix in high school. Chris’s college career in track and field consisted of 5 indoor races (none of which he won!). I watched these races in person. Don’t get it twisted… Chris wouldn’t stand a chance at ANY distance (even 40 yards) against the world’s best. He proved that in both high school and college. If anybody thinks he is faster now after playing in the NFL and putting on even more weight… well, there is just no reasoning with you.

    • @Coach McAuley, the world record for 60 meters is 6.39 and his held by Maurice Greene. I assume you meant 60 yard dash for Johnson running 6.38, and not 60 meters.

  • @Coach Jeff McAuley

    I’m sorry but i’m sure that you’ve made a typo with cj’s 60m at 6.38,
    Mo Greene’s world record is 6.39… even so if cj did run a 6.38, usain ran 6.31 en route to his world title in berlin.
    There is no question in my mind that usain would have a cj at any distance…

  • @Ben,

    Yes, obviously that was a typo, thanks for pointing that out! Johnson’s personal best is 6.83 not 6.38. It took place at the Virginia Tech Invitational on January 14th, 2005. He finished 3rd in that semifinal race by the way.

    Make no mistake, he is an incredible athlete. I was just pointing out he is not a potential Olympic sprinter in the future. And, the NFL will be back, so I doubt he would be too motivated to leave NFL millions to give it a serious try. :)

  • @Markham Lee,

    That’s not correct about the NFL Combine. Since 1999 the combine has used Fully Automatic Timing.

    The combine does eliminate reaction time. They set up a single lane with a laser timing gate at the start, 10, 20, 30 and 40 yard marks. The official gives the runner an OK signal, and he can start when he wants. The timer starts when he trips the start laser and stops at the 40. Similar idea to Downhill Skiing where the time starts when the skier breaks the starting gate.

    Before that the combine used automatic timing at the finish line however the clock was started manually. Before that, fully manual. Most if not all college pro days still use manual or semi manual timing.

    Removing the reaction time saves 0.1 (for a perfect legal start) to 0.19 (for a bad start). But then again it is on FieldTurf with cleats, and done without the aid of starting blocks.

    There are faster guys than CJ in the NFL. Jacoby Ford (Raiders WR) ran 10.01 at college for the 100m and 6.52 in the. His 40 yard was 4.28

  • Hi James –

    I checked with numerous sources on this, and it appears that my original comment was correct:

    But forgot those, Popular Mechanics agrees with me and this is based on discussions with the scouts at the Combine and the NFL:

    Also reaction times for world class sprinters are often around .14 – .18,

    .10 would be is possible but exceeding rare, .16-.19 is probably more typical.

    Personally, I think the NFL needs to re-evaluate the way it runs the combine overall. For example:

    Why are 180-190 lbs Defensive Backs being asked to lift the same thing (225 lbs) as 340 lbs Linemen?

    Speed: when I was in college we had to run a solo 55m dash as a sort of speed test in the preseason. Freshman year my time was near the bottom, and I was worried I wouldn’t end up making the team…..

    …a few months later, we ran time trials AGAINST each other 55m and the 300m.

    I wasn’t worried about making the team after those, I was just wanted to work hard and let down my upperclassmen teammates on the relays.

    My point is how many of these guys would run faster if they were competing against someone?

    Also if I were a coach I’d also want 60m, 100m and 200m times for my players, as it would give me great insights into their top end speed, acceleration, speed endurance and conditioning.

    Just think about it:

    Just watch a 100m race (at any level) and it’s easy to envision a scenario where athlete A beats athlete B in the 40y, but gets overhauled by him in the 100m, and scenarios where a faster athlete over 60-100m gets beat by someone else in the 200m.

    Happens every day at track meets around the world.

    Where I think this is relevant, as the 60-100m speed tells you the breakaway speed, the guys who really separate from the defense for the big play whether it’s a long run, receiving play or a return.

    The best 200 guys? Those are the guys you can send deep in the fourth quarter.

    You see it in track too, you put your best 200 guy as the 4 x 100 anchor, because give him a running start and he’s your fastest guy over the 120-130 meters you’re really running….

    …especially when you have to factor in the athlete running other events.

  • I had a look at those links and it does appear they are working off outdated information (especially the talk of people holding stopwatches at the combine!). The combine has been releasing official times for a few years now).

    The NFL combines procedures are well published in many places now. A visit to the official website also has video of this years combine where the automatic gates are clearly visible at each 10 yard mark, plus at the start line itself which starts the clock.

    This is why no one today can come close to the mythical times set in the 80’s by Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders of under 4.2 (hand timed, of course!). Both were very fast and likely under 4.3, but no-one runs the 40 in the times being reported then (4.12 in some cases)

    Game speed is completely different though. You rarely run in a straight line, you are in pads, plus you have to play for 3 hours of running, hitting and being hit.

    I definitely agree with you on the Bench Press test. Benching 40+ reps tells you nothing about their strength. They would be better off having different weights for the skill and size positions. Let the WR and CB do reps on 225, but get the linemen to do 300.

  • Bolt would destroy Johnson to such a degree that if this 40m or 40yd was ran it would really hurt Johnsons speed image within the NFL.