10-14-01, 2:40 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Bengals rookie wide receiver Chad Johnson has been cleared to play Sunday against the Titans and he figures he'll play mainly on third downs. And he vows he'll pick up right where he left off when he broke his clavicle a month ago Wednesday against the Browns.
Johnson broke his left collarbone on his career-high fifth catch, a sliding grab that converted a third down on the Bengals' clinching touchdown drive.
"Nothing has changed," said Johnson before Wednesday's practice. "Put me in the fire a little bit."
With Darnay Scott also back after missing all but a handful of early plays last week with a concussion, the Bengals have both speed receivers for the first time since the 24-14 victory over Cleveland.
The Bengals' wideouts already have more catches of 20 yards or more than they had all last year. Even without Scott and Johnson against the Jaguars, they had
five of what they call "Big Play" catches. That gives them 17, two better than last year and just four behind the 21 "Big Plays," put up by Scott, wide receiver Carl Pickens and quarterback Jeff Blake in 1999.
But they're still looking for that first 50-yard pass since Scott caught a 52-yard touchdown pass in Cinergy Field's last game in 1999, 27 games ago.
"I haven't gone vertical yet," said Johnson, whose longest catch is 20 yards. "I'm sure it's going to come. We haven't done it yet. It might have happened in the three games that I missed."
SOUND BYTE:** Titans coach Jeff Fisher on why Tennessee hasn't lost to the Bengals since Cincinnati running back Corey Dillon set the NFL's single-game rookie rushing record (since broken) against his team on Dec. 4 1997:
"That was the last time Boomer Esiason played quarterback for them, too. I'm not the only one that's said that."
FISHER RUNS REVERSE: Titans coach Jeff Fisher said he was misquoted two months ago about Bengals fullback Lorenzo Neal not always blocking the right guy, but always doing it 100 miles per hour when he played for Fisher in Tennessee the past two seasons.
Fisher had a hard time convincing the Cincinnati media he was misquoted since it was the same group of writers who quoted him back on Sept. 12. But for whatever reason, Fisher was much more gracious toward Neal on this conference call while admitting Titans Pro Bowl running back and Eddie George and his 2.8 yards per carry miss Neal's blocking.
"Lorenzo did for Eddie what he's doing for their offense and Corey (Dillon)," Fisher said. "He's saying, 'Hey, follow me. I'll show you where you have to go.'
"Lorenzo may not have always blocked the right guy, but he's going to block somebody and hit them hard," Fisher said. "I was surprised (Jaguars cornerback) Fernando Bryant got up from his block last weekend. Lorenzo got him on a crack-back block. It was called back because of a receiver in motion. That's how he plays. He'll set the tempo early and maintain it for the whole game."
George, who averaged 1,406 yards the past two seasons running behind Neal, is on pace to rush for 888 yards and his first sub-1,000-yard season.
" You're going to have to look hard around the league to find somebody that has more respect than I do for Lorenzo Neal," Fisher said. " I knew exactly what he was going to do the day he walked into that locker room. There's no question we miss him."