Chad Johnson must stop downward spiral

Nine years ago I was a cub reporter covering the Cincinnati Bengals for the Columbus Dispatch. Chad Johnson was entering his fourth season and starting to come into his own.

I watched Johnson come of age with the Bengals and also covered his decline with the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins. Now, Johnson has a warrant out for his arrest in Florida this week after skipping probation following last year’s domestic incident and divorce from former wife Evelyn Lozada.

Here is one person hoping this isn’t the beginning of a bad downward spiral for the former Pro Bowl receiver.

Full disclosure: I always liked and got along with Johnson. He’s not a bad guy, just a little left of center and very unpredictable. But as a person who interviewed him on a regular basis throughout his entire career, I always appreciated his originality and viewed him as mostly harmless and comical.

But in the back of my mind I wondered what life would be like for Johnson after football. Johnson is the kind of guy who craves the spotlight and loves being the center of attention. In a weird way, I think that was a large part of his motivation to become such a great receiver. It was never about Super Bowls or the fake Hall of Fame jacket he once wore. Johnson worked hard because he loved to entertain and welcome people to the “Chad Johnson Show” on Sundays.

However, this latest legal issue probably ends any chance of Johnson making an NFL comeback. He's become too toxic for teams to touch and Johnson, 35, isn't getting any younger.

Johnson stayed out of trouble his entire 12-year career but now has two run-ins with the law in the past nine months. I don't think that's a coincidence. Johnson must find structure and purpose in his post-football life -- before it’s too late.