Ex-OSU star has a strong year but pays for end zone antics
Going into Sunday's regular-season finale against Cleveland, Chad Johnson's 2003 statistics are eye-popping Ñ 86 receptions for 1,326 yards and 10 touchdowns. Tack on a first-time Pro Bowl selection and a huge role in the Cincinnati Bengals' turnaround season, and it has been an incredible year. Right, Chad?
'Not what I wanted,' says the former Oregon State standout. 'Nowhere near what I wanted.'
Before the season, Johnson said his personal goal was to better the NFL record of 1,848 receiving yards set by San Francisco's Jerry Rice in 1995.
He also says he wanted to lead Cincinnati into the playoffs for the first time since 1990. After the Bengals' loss to St. Louis last week, they retain a mathematical chance to get into the playoffs but need a win over the Browns and a Pittsburgh victory over Baltimore.
'I set my standards real high,' Johnson says. 'I don't know what type of game I'll have against Cleveland, but I know I'll fall short of 1,800 yards, and that's disappointing.
'But I've accomplished some things not a lot of third-year receivers have accomplished. And the best part has been the way our team has played. My thing was to show people we aren't the same old Bengals, and I've done a good job contributing to that.'
After a 2-14 season in 2002, the Bengals have gone 8-7 under new coach Marvin Lewis. A victory at home Sunday would give them their first winning season since 1990.
'I hope Pittsburgh beats Baltimore,' Johnson says. 'It is in God's hands now. If we beat Cleveland but don't go to the playoffs, we still had a winning season, which they haven't had in Cincinnati for a long, long time. It has been a huge turnaround. What Marvin Lewis has done is unbelievable. If he doesn't win Coach of the Year, something is wrong.'
Johnson has received even more publicity and notoriety for his flamboyance than for his performance. He guaranteed that the Bengals would upset then-undefeated Kansas City Ñ they did Ñ and has been tagged three times with excessive celebration penalties, and resulting fines by the league.
'The fines don't bother me,' he says. 'There will be a time when I grow out of that. For now, it has brought out a lot of enthusiasm from my teammates and the fans É it's worth it. I'm having fun, and it has been good publicity for a team that has been down for so long. I'm going to continue to do what I do, as long as it doesn't hurt the team.'
Has it soiled his reputation? Has it branded him with the public as a me-first guy?
'That's not how I am,' Johnson says. 'People who say that don't know me as a person. Nobody wants to win more than I do. Nobody thinks more of my coaches and teammates. Nobody wants to help this franchise rise up more than me. As far as that perception goes, it doesn't bother me. I couldn't care less.'