Updated: August 18, 2008, 7:28 AM EST
[url="http://msn.foxsports.com/nfl/story/8461510/Johnson-may-have-learned-painful-lesson"]http://msn.foxsports.com/nfl/story/8461 ... ful-lesson[/url]
CINCINNATI - Chad Johnson has learned a painful lesson: Be careful what you wish for.
Johnson's offseason declaration that he didn't want to play for Cincinnati finally came to fruition — only this couldn't have been what he meant.
Five offensive snaps into Sunday night's 27-10 preseason loss to Detroit, the Bengals wide receiver was up-ended while trying to catch a Carson Palmer pass. Johnson landed awkwardly on his left arm and was helped off the field before heading into the locker room for medical tests.
The prognosis: A sprained shoulder that had popped in and out of its socket. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said Johnson won't play in Saturday's preseason game against New Orleans but should be ready for the Sept. 7 regular-season opener at Baltimore.
Johnson's arm was in a sling after the game. As I approached his locker with another reporter, Johnson simply said, "I'm good, I'm good." Asked how much time he would miss, Johnson said, "Maybe a week ... easy."
He then walked out of the locker room. For once, Johnson had nothing more to say.
Love or hate his antics, nobody should want Johnson to get hurt. The blow is especially harsh for a floundering Bengals offense already missing the services of Pro Bowl wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh and running back Rudi Johnson because of hamstring injuries.
Palmer's quarterback rating of 24.5 was only slightly higher than the number of times he was hit by Detroit's defense in four series. Even when Chad Johnson was in the game, it was clear he needed to work on his timing with Palmer. Lions cornerback Brian Kelly was able to break up a Palmer pass to Johnson that arrived a hair too late. Kelly also notched an interception on the play where Johnson was injured largely because Palmer's throw was slightly high.
Maybe that sequence would have unfolded differently had Johnson spent his offseason working with Palmer rather than lobbying to get traded.
"Our passing game has not been as consistent with him out," said Bengals left tackle Levi Jones. "He definitely adds a spark and is a player we need back."
Johnson couldn't have done much more to try and escape. He ranted. He raged. It was a bigger spectacle than his touchdown celebrations.
And it didn't do any good.
Having played in Cincinnati for seven years, Johnson should have known Bengals owner/general manager Mike Brown can make a mule seem open-minded. Brown stubbornly refused to consider Johnson's demands, even when the Washington Redskins called with an attractive trade package just before the draft. Brown wasn't going to set a dangerous precedent by allowing Johnson to talk his way off a perennially losing roster — especially a Pro Bowl talent he had paid $16 million over the previous two seasons.
Not wanting to risk the team trying to recoup previously-paid bonus money, Johnson reported to training camp with a Bengals tail between his legs.
To his credit, Johnson has quit griping and promised he would improve upon his 93-catch effort in 2007. Teammates were willing to forgive and forget being dragged into one of the NFL's biggest off-season controversies because Johnson's beef wasn't with them but Bengals management.
"Each and every player knows what's going on and didn't take too much of it to heart," Jones said.
While some fans were understandably hurt by his desire to leave, Johnson didn't receive any backlash in his first Cincinnati appearance of the preseason. He was greeted with a standing ovation when jogging into the north end zone shortly before kickoff. There also were more Palmer and Johnson jerseys being worn inside Paul Brown Stadium than for any other Bengals players.
"He's a crybaby," said Curtis Carman, a Mohawked Bengals fan wearing orange-and-black striped clothes from head to toe. "But as long as he shuts up and produces, that's all that matters."
Restraint might be asking too much when it comes to Johnson. The profootballtalk.com Web site reported that Johnson has filed paperwork to legally change his last name to "Ocho Cinco" to capitalize on jersey sales. Johnson has denied the report but isn't carrying much credibility right now after an off-season of contradictory statements.
Bengals supporter Bill Huber describes Johnson's behavior as "Chad being Chad. He's been loony and kooky since he's been here. We're much better if he's on our team."
True, but even the Bengals could have their breaking point should Johnson become sullen once again. Johnson's moodiness is such that not even winning games and being showcased offensively might be enough to make him happy.
But until he's back on the field, we won't know