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Celebrate Ocho Cinco!


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Great read! 'Bout time.


Thank you, Chad Johnson, for loving football as much as the fans do.

Feeling the passion for the game that the fans feel might not sound extraordinary. After all, NFL players eat, sleep and breathe football, and the game makes them rich and famous. But the game can also make them crippled, and it is, after all, a job. So it's understandable that some players approach the game more like an adult going to the office than a kid going to the playground.

For his entire seven-year career as a wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals, though, Chad Johnson has always been the kid going to the playground. That makes him the NFL's most fun player to watch. Die-hard fans spend every weekend for four months watching football because they love the game, but sometimes the fans wonder whether the players love it like they do. No one has ever questioned whether Johnson loves football.

This week, everyone is talking about the touchdown Johnson scored Monday night against the Ravens, and the celebration afterward. For those who have been out of the country for the last five days, Johnson reeled in a 39-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter of the Bengals' 27-20 victory over the Baltimore Ravens, then gestured to the crowd — and the TV cameras — to stay focused on him while he went to the sideline to begin his much-discussed first celebration of the season. Near the Bengals' bench was an oversized blazer, like the ones players wear when they get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Written on the back of the jacket was: "FUTURE H.O.F. 20??"

It was funny, it was creative and it celebrated his success without demeaning his opponents. That's Chad Johnson for you.

But Johnson is so much more than that. Hardly anyone commented on what happened a little later in Monday night's game. On the Bengals' first play of the second quarter, Johnson ran the ball on an end-around and was tackled by Ravens safety Dawan Landry. As Johnson got up after Landry's tackle, he grimaced, clutched his leg and was clearly hurting. It looked like he would have to come off the field.

But he stayed on the field, and he did more than that. Even though he was hurting and couldn't run at full speed, he caught passes on the Bengals' next two plays. And later on the drive — still in obvious pain and noticeably limping between plays, mind you — Johnson ran an absolutely perfect route to get open in the middle of the Ravens' defense and pick up 33 yards.

That's the part of Chad Johnson that doesn't get written about enough — the toughness, the perfect routes, the dedication it takes to get to the point where Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer always knows exactly where Johnson will be, even if Johnson is banged up and can't go full speed.

"Toughness" isn't a word often associated with Johnson, but he's one of the NFL's toughest players. He stays on the field to help his team, even when he's hurt. He gladly goes over the middle, even though he knows he'll get drilled. He holds onto the ball, even when he gets leveled by players who dwarf his 192-pound frame.

Johnson talks a lot, and athletes who talk a lot aren't universally beloved. But there are two elements of Johnson's brand of trash talk that differentiate him from so many other athletes.

The first is that he's good-natured about it. It's not mean-spirited to send Pepto-Bismol to opposing cornerbacks or to hold up a sign saying, "Dear NFL, PLEASE don't fine me AGAIN!!!!!" And Johnson can take it as well as he dishes it out. Johnson gets a laugh out of it when other players talk back to him, like when Falcons cornerback DeAngelo Hall shaved, "I OWN U 85" into his hair before the Falcons played the Bengals in the preseason. Johnson thought it was funny and gave Hall a hug after the game — but not until after he torched Hall on the field.

The second — and even more important — reason to appreciate Johnson's brand of trash talk is that he can back it up on the field. Johnson led the league in receiving yards last year and has been selected to four Pro Bowls.

Johnson isn't a perfect player, but even when discussing his shortcomings, he has a panache that no NFL player can match. During training camp this year, Johnson offered one of the most memorable quotes of the year when he said, "My blocking? It sucks. I'm not gonna lie."

In an era when it seems like we can never make it through a season without a star wide receiver calling attention to himself by being a jerk, Johnson calls attention to himself by being a joker.

This off-season Johnson beat a four-year-old racehorse named Restore The Roar at Cincinnati's River Downs racetrack. Yeah, he got a 100-meter head start in a race that was only 200 meters long, but he didn't beat the horse because he actually wanted to demonstrate that he's faster than a horse. He did it because he wanted to do something goofy for the sake of doing something goofy.

For his next act, Johnson says that if he scores against the Browns on Sunday in Cleveland, he'll do a Lambeau Leap-style celebration and jump into the Dawg Pound. The fans in Cleveland won't cheer Johnson for that, but the fans of the 31 other NFL teams should.

He deserves to be celebrated.

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Damn, I just found this on Fox and thought I'd post it here first. Oh, well.

I thought it was a great read on Chad. I like how he mentions how tough he is. Bengals fans are used to seeing a cramping Chad run to the locker room once a game to get an IV, then seconds later, he's right back at it again. It's also nice to see the Bengals get some positive press.

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