Posted: 5:55 a.m.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh has been there before.
He leaves Monday for the Pro Bowl, where Chad Johnson invited him upon his own first selection four years ago. And it will be at least Houshmandzadeh's fourth trip to Hawaii, where his family has attended two weddings.
"But, yeah, this time I've got some guests," he said Sunday as he prepared for his departure while watching the Super Bowl.
This time Houshmandzadeh is playing and that means he has done the inviting. A cursory glance at the list shows all the Bengals receivers, two of his college coaches, extended family, and some of his high school friends. The working number is about 17 people.
He's not sure who has accepted and who hasn't, but he does know he'd like to get the winner's share rather than the loser's. Last year, when Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer led the AFC to a 31-28 victory in being named the Player of the Game, the winners took home $40,000 each while the losers netted $20,000 each.
So the idea is always to win the game to offset the expense of the guest list.
The last ball he caught was his 112th catch of last season, a throw from Palmer 35 days ago that ended up giving him a share of the NFL receiving title with New England's Wes Welker.
Welker ended the Super Bowl tied with another Bengal when he caught 11 balls in New England's loss to the Giants, giving him the Super Bowl record with Bengals tight end Dan Ross, 49ers receiver Jerry Rice, and Patriots receiver Deion Branch.
"I've just been doing cardio," Houshmandzadeh said. "It's been kind of weird working out. There's nobody around. It's just been me. I haven't been doing as much as if I'd been getting ready for the season, but I don't want to go out there and get hurt."
There are always adjustments to the Pro Bowl rosters after the Super Bowl, but Houshmandzadeh said that's not why he was watching the big game. He just didn't want to see an opposing team go 19-0 while he's still playing in the league.
But he figured that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady won't be making the Pro Bowl trip, and since Johnson is an alternate there was some interest in what Patriots receiver Randy Moss would do. Bengals left tackle Levi Jones, another alternate, had been on alert for an injury or change along the Patriots front.
Houshmandzadeh saw Johnson during the week at the Super Bowl, but he still doesn't know if Johnson is going to take him up on his invite. Trying to keep up with Johnson these days is like trying to keep up with a presidential candidate, given all his unhappy pronouncements concerning the Bengals, but Houshmandzadeh said he thinks Johnson still might show.
Houshmandzadeh thinks among the receivers that Antonio Chatman will make it for sure. T.J.'s wife and two daughters are going to follow him. They have been there for the weddings of Chatman and former Bengals safety Lamont Thompson. His mother won't make it.
"I don't think she's ever been on a plane and that's a long flight, even from L.A.," Houshmandzadeh said. "The girls can't miss that much school, so they'll come later in the week."
Houshmandzadeh expects to renew some acquaintances among the Pro Bowlers and some who aren't. Former Bengals tight end Matt Schobel is going to be in town to watch his brother play.
"I'm glad that they can all go," Houshmandzadeh said of his guest list. "It may be my first time but I'm not planning on like it's going to be my last."