3-24-04, 2 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
It's nice to know fame hasn't changed Chad Johnson. Of course, that means he's looking for more fame.
"I'm not playing for the Pro Bowl any more. I'm playing for the Hall of Fame," said Johnson, baptizing the 2004 preseason Wednesday with a wide smile. "I want to get inducted while I'm still playing the game. That's new; that's something different. I'm trying to take it to the next level."
A Bengals-record and AFC-leading 1,355 yards and a first Pro Bowl berth later hasn't changed the fun-loving Johnson from declaring the outrageous that might not be all that outrageous any more with dreams of long ball spiraling through Bengaldom.
He thinks he can reach his long-stated goal of 1,800 yards now that the Bengals want to go down the field with quarterback Carson Palmer, he's got a special pair of orange shoes with black stripes planned for this season just for the Dolphins and Terrell Owens that should add to his fine list, and it turns out he's the Super Model going on billboards next month to model the Bengals' new uniforms that he says includes a third jersey that's orange for special home games.
"They're sweet," Johnson said.
Johnson isn't kidding about 1,800 yards. Not that he ever was. But especially now that he senses the Bengals' shift in philosophy to make the long ball more of a staple.
"I was what? About (445) yards short of 1,800?" Johnson asked. "Those could have been deep balls maybe. A lot of my yards (were) the intermediate game, stuff across the middle. I can count maybe three of four (long ones) from last year.
"Our system wasn't built around the deep ball," Johnson said. "We were so good at the short, intermediate game that any long ball was just a plus. If we can do the short and intermediate stuff, and be good at the long ball, which is a thing Carson is good at. . .Carson's arm strength is nice."
Johnson is thinking he can have a season of 10 or more 40-yard catches "like (Randy) Moss." But Johnson is probably going to be surprised to find out that it was he who led all of the NFL with seven catches of 40 or more last year. Moss was one of five wideouts (Amani Toomer, Travis Taylor, Anquan Boldin, Kelly Campbell), tied for second.
He was tied fourth in the NFL with 20 catches of 20 yards with Boldin. Topping the NFL was Moss with 27, Torry Holt 26, and Laveranues Coles 21.
Johnson can see at least once scenario right now.
"On first down, when teams usually run the ball, we should drop back and it should be man-to-man and Carson should be able to let it go and let me go get it," Johnson said. "With arm strength to match my speed. . .Easy catch 10 plus of 40 (yards)."
After incurring about 50,000 in fines last year (some got rescinded) for uniform violations and end-zone celebrations, Johnson is already planning on a lighter wallet. He's going to wear the striped shoes at Paul Brown Stadium against his hometown Dolphins and in Philadelphia for new Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens.
For the other 14 games, Johnson figures to be wearing black shoes like everyone else, which he says are going to be matched with uniforms that probably can be interchangeable among the combination of white jerseys, white pants, black jerseys, and black pants. He says there are still stripes running down the side, "but they look 2005ish," for the April 22 unveiling.
That's the year he figures he and Palmer are going to emerge into the elite, just like it took 2002 with Jon Kitna to pave the way for their big 2003.
"2005 is the year," Johnson said. But 2004 won't be bad either because he says he still thinks he can get 1,800.
"Are you serious?' asked Johnson when questioned if his numbers are going to fall with the change in quarterbacks. "Keep it real."
Johnson has credited Kitna with much of his emergence and on Wednesday he lobbied the Bengals to keep him.
"Kit is good. Kit is going to need to stay around here," he said. "It's very important for Carson to grow as a quarterback in this system."