Humbler Johnson has chance to go out on own terms

Aug. 4, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins wide receiver Chad Johnson (85) during a scrimmage at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Chad Johnson’s prediction of what type of team would take a chance on him ended up proving to be prophetic.

When I interviewed Johnson last year in Miami before the Bengals faced the Dolphins, he said "It would have to be a strong club, a strong team, a strong coach that would be able to withstand that minimal storm that would come with signing me. " He ended up finding that team in the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League. The Alouettes signed Johnson to a two-year contract on Thursday.

"Am I worth the distraction?" Johnson asked in October. "It’s low risk, but could be high reward. I wouldn’t come in being Chad, I’d be more mild mannered. I wouldn’t be boisterous."

Even though he hasn’t played in a regular-season game since Super Bowl XLVI, when New England faced the Giants, Johnson has been hoping for one more chance to go out on as best of terms as possible. For any athlete, the last professional memory you want is being cut on national television after a domestic incident. That’s what happened in 2012 when Johnson was released by the Dolphins and it was captured by NFL Films cameras as part of the "Hard Knocks" series.

It’s also the height of folly to think that Johnson will be the receiver he was in his heyday with the Bengals. He’s 36 and doesn’t have the separation skills he once had. From 2002-07, Johnson averaged 88.5 catches for 1,339 yards and eight touchdowns. Over his final three seasons in Cincinnati, he averaged 64 receptions for 806 yards and 5.7 touchdowns.

Chad though could be a solid receiver in the CFL. With a longer and wider field, he could excel on the shorter routes, where he is more consistent in breaking away from defensive backs. The CFL rules are also more receiver friendly as far as blocking and jamming. Even though he was a commentator for last year, Johnson did work out in Miami daily with celebrity trainer George "Hit" Richards and is in shape.

For those who think that Alouettes general manager Jim Popp is doing this as a publicity stunt, he’s not. Popp has taken plenty of chances on big names and giving others second chances. He revived the careers of Marc Trestman, who is now the head coach of the Bears, and made Anthony Calvillo one of the more successful quarterbacks in CFL history. He also gave Andrew Hawkins a chance to show what he could do in professional football.

Besides Johnson, former Ohio State Heisman winner Troy Smith could be the starting quarterback when the season starts in early July.

How Johnson adapts to the Canadian game will be known more when training camp begins in June. He had some problems getting on the same page with Tom Brady in New England after he was traded there in 2011 and had just 15 receptions for 276 yards and a touchdown. However, for the first time a humbler Johnson has a chance to go out on his terms, which is all he has been asking for. Montreal has given him that shot, the rest is up to him. As Popp told the Associated Press during this week’s minicamp "business is business".

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