Johnson still making news for wrong reasons
KAPOLEI, Hawaii - If not for the threat of violence, Chad Johnson's behavior following Thursday's Pro Bowl practice was perversely comical.
Moments after agent Drew Rosenhaus told me that Johnson was trying to resolve his problems with Cincinnati management "behind the scenes," the Bengals wide receiver ripped into the team again in an NFL Network interview.
When finished, "Ocho Cinco" would say nada to every non-NFL owned news outlet. That made independent media members — those who Johnson should have wanted in his corner — much less sympathetic to his plight.
It gets better.
Before leaving, Johnson was stopped by a member of the league's media relations department (Michael Lipman) for me and another reporter. I asked Johnson whether he was having a better off-season after venting some of his frustration publicly at the Super Bowl.
Johnson walked off without answering the question. Lipman tried speaking with him again, only to get shoved. The much-bigger Johnson then stared down Lipman before stepping onto a jitney headed toward the players' hotel.
Unprofessional behavior? Absolutely.
But at this point, you wouldn't expect anything else.
Johnson opened the 2007 season with another humorous end-zone celebration. He donned a yellow jacket similar to those worn by Hall of Fame players with a message printed on the back: "Future H.O.F. 20??"
By the end of the year, no one was laughing.
Johnson remained one of the NFL's most potent offensive weapons, breaking his own franchise record with 1,440 receiving yards. But that achievement was overshadowed by the growing belief that he was selfish and becoming a locker-room cancer like former Bengals wide receiver Carl Pickens during the mid-1990s.
Johnson's fun-loving image began taking hits in an early October loss to New England. He continued to argue with quarterback Carson Palmer long after miscommunication on a route that resulted in a Patriots interception. During future games, Johnson sometimes alternated between sulking and becoming demonstrative when unable to connect with Palmer.
This may have contributed to Palmer posting his lowest quarterback rating (86.7) in three seasons. It also doesn't seem coincidental that fellow Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh was a first-ballot Pro Bowl selection in voting by fans, players and coaches, while Johnson is appearing as an alternate only because New England's Randy Moss (ankle) withdrew.
Johnson admitted Thursday on the NFL Network that he has "gotten out of line every now and then." But he added, "What great one doesn't? What great one is not emotional about what he does? What great one does not have passion about what he does? What great one hates losing?
"Find me a great one that doesn't do the same things that I've done in the past and I'll stop playing. Period."
Johnson believes he was being undermined in 2007 by a "prominent source" inside the Bengals who was leaking negative things about him to the media. Unfortunately, I couldn't ask Johnson whether "prominent source" is a code word for Bengals coach Marvin Lewis.
"I think whatever happens in-house gets out," Johnson said. "(The Bengals) have been stirring it for 16 weeks. ... I don't know where all those voices are now. I seem to be the only one speaking out."
The Bengals are refusing to comment on Johnson or his claims.
Before the year ended, Johnson started making noise about playing elsewhere. He lobbied to join Miami shortly before playing the Dolphins in the season finale. Johnson then teased interest in Carolina, Chicago and New England while making the rounds during Super Bowl XLII-week interviews in Phoenix.
In fact, Johnson can probably see himself wearing every helmet that will be represented during Sunday's Pro Bowl except Cincinnati's.
The Bengals aren't inclined to trade Johnson because of salary-cap ramifications, not to mention that he is an outstanding player. A source told FOXSports.com that Cincinnati could take an $8 million cap hit by jettisoning Johnson. Even if some of that charge can be reduced through different cap mechanisms, the source said the Bengals have yet to deeply explore the option.
Two years ago, Johnson was given a six-year, $33.5 million contract, even though his previous deal wasn't set to expire until 2009. Clearly, that move backfired.
"A resolution is going to happen," Houshmandzadeh said Thursday. "It has to. Whatever happens, we'll go with it."
The Bengals are wise not to rush into a Johnson trade with the 2008 regular season seven months away. Plenty can transpire between now and then.
Johnson might make amends with Lewis and try for a fresh start. Maybe the 30-year-old Johnson will retire, a possibility he raised during a Super Bowl week interview. Or something completely bizarre could happen, like Johnson getting suspended under the NFL's conduct policy if he keeps assaulting league employees.
Now that would be entertaining.
Alex Marvez will co-host with Solomon Wilcots from 2 to 6 p.m. EST Saturday on Sirius NFL Radio (Channel 124).