Print and Go Back ESPN.com: AFC North [Print without images]

Monday, August 25, 2008
Is Chad one hit away?

By James Walker
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

 
  Frank Victores/US Presswire
 Bengals star receiver Chad Johnson's shoulder injury is of great concern in Cincinnati.

If the Cincinnati Bengals didn't look fragile already this preseason, news of star receiver Chad Johnson having a partially-torn labrum has to be a major concern in the Queen City.

Behind quarterback Carson Palmer, Johnson is Cincinnati's most indispensable player on offense. Teammate and receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh had more catches than Johnson last season, but Houshmandzadeh benefits greatly from the constant double teams that Johnson draws from opponents.

Now it appears Johnson is just one significant hit or nasty fall away from re-aggravating his shoulder and possibly making it a season-ending injury. Johnson took a similar type of spill Aug. 17 while going up for a catch against the Detroit Lions.

Playing wide receiver, there will be many more opportunities for Johnson to absorb similar blows. That should have the Bengals and their fans gasping after every highlight-reel catch or tough hit over the middle for Johnson throughout the course of the 2008 season.

Keep in mind, there are worse injuries than a partially-torn labrum. Some players opt to have surgery, and some choose to play through it. But the key is it's not a complete tear and that Johnson is attentive and diligent with his treatment.

But the urgency of the Chris Henry signing makes more sense than it did a week ago. Many were baffled as to why the Bengals would bring back the troubled receiver, who first has to serve a four-game suspension. But news of the significance of Johnson's injury helps connect the dots.

Key offensive cogs Chad Johnson (shoulder), Houshmandzadeh (hamstring), Palmer (broken nose) and tailback Rudi Johnson (hamstring) are all banged up this preseason.

The Bengals are hoping for better luck with injuries once the games begin counting in the standings.