Wednesday, October 29, 2003
Johnson's throat slash gesture draws coach's wrath
CINCINNATI -- Chad Johnson has been warned to watch the
The trash-talking receiver who loves entertaining the crowd
after a touchdown put the Cincinnati Bengals' biggest comeback of
the season at risk with his latest move.
Coach Marvin Lewis castigated him on the sideline Sunday after
his throat-slash gesture following a touchdown drew a 15-yard
penalty. The Bengals overcame it, holding on for a 27-24 victory
Johnson said Wednesday that he hadn't been fined by the NFL, an
indication the league accepted his explanation that it was an
innocent mistake. (The NFL won't comment on such fines.)
"They would have done it already," said Johnson, who has a lot
of firsthand knowledge of the league's methods for fines. "I'm
sure they understand what I meant."
His head coach is less understanding.
Lewis jogged over to Johnson as he returned from the end zone
after Sunday's display, and berated him at length. The first-year
head coach made it sink in that every action -- even one done in fun
-- has consequences.
"That's the significance of what you do," Lewis said. "We are
beginning to learn that this is a team game. It's not the Chad
Johnson show, it's a team game. He understands and is remorseful."
Remorseful, perhaps, but not ready to become a wallflower.
Johnson is enjoying his emergence as one of the league's top
young receivers. His 53-yard touchdown catch Sunday left him with
643 yards and an 18.4-yard average per catch in seven games.
He started getting attention with his catches and his win
guarantees last season, when the Bengals finished 2-14. Most of his
trash talking is playful rather than malicious -- he even makes fun
Last week, Johnson suggested there's no pressure on him now that
he's become the leader of the Bengals' receiving corps.
"That's just me," he said. "I worked my way from the bottom
up. Every week, it's only going to get better. There are three
things in life that are certain: death, taxes and not being able to
He's been fined $20,000 this season for violating the league's
uniform regulations -- shirt not tucked in and so forth. He got
another $5,000 fine for pretending to take a photograph in the end
zone with Peter Warrick to celebrate a touchdown in Cleveland.
On Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium, he scored the go-ahead
touchdown in the fourth quarter, then headed for the stands. He
started to rip off his helmet -- another no-no -- to throw it into
the stands, then decided against it.
So he did the throat slash gesture to tell fans he was keeping
his helmet on, then jumped into the stands. An angry Lewis was
waiting to meet him.
Asked what he would do if he were in Johnson's place, Lewis
said, "Act like you've been there before. I don't know, I never
scored a touchdown. In high school, you give the ball to the
referee. I don't know what I would do."
Johnson knows what he's going to do -- keep celebrating.
"You work hard all week and get in that end zone, and that's
what it's all about," he said. "Everybody has their own little
thing they do.
"Last year, I was a little more humble with scoring -- just go
to the sideline. This year, what's the point of working hard and
getting into the end zone and not having a celebration?"
His teammates are with him on that point. Rookie receiver Kelley
Washington did a squirmy move -- he calls it "The Squirrel" --
after his first NFL touchdown catch Sunday. Even quarterback Jon
Kitna joined in.
"Growing up and going to the games, players always look for
what players are going to do not necessarily on the play, but after
the play," Washington said. "What Deion Sanders did and what
Michael Irvin did -- those guys put a lot of excitement into the
Lewis isn't going to outlaw dancing, but he wants his players to
watch their steps.
"I want them to be happy and excited and celebrate, but we
don't need to do some of the things we've been doing," Lewis said.
"We have to get rid of that."