4-2-03, 9:30 p.m.
4-3-03, 5:30 a.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
These are the stats Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson is going to post in his locker this season:
In his second season, 49ers wideout Terrell Owens had 60 catches for 936 yards and eight touchdowns for 15.6 yards per catch. In his second season, the Colts' Marvin Harrison had 73 catches for 866 yards and six touchdowns for 11.9 yards per catch. What is left hanging unprinted, but in Johnson's head, is that in his second season last year, he had 69 catches for 1,166 yards and five touchdowns for 16.9 yards per catch.
"I outdid both of them and right now T.O. and Marvin are the two most dominating receivers out there," said Johnson before Wednesday's throwing session at Paul Brown Stadium. "If I can stay on my pace with a 1,000-yard season, but raise the bar with what I'm doing now, I think I'll make myself better."
With last year's spate of bold guarantees and predictions, Johnson produced headlines and fanned flames. But he also provided some intrigue in a season of little. On Wednesday, a more somber Johnson offered only goals instead of promises. His working number is 1,800 receiving yards.
"It's a good number to shoot for. I think it's doable," Johnson said. "But I have to cut down on my mental mistakes. I gave away a lot of catches last year. That's why I'm here. I'm here for the next three months. This is the one place to be to get to where I want to be."
Johnson wants to be Harrison and Owens. When he returned last week, he retrieved from his locker the Dec. 9, 2002 issue of "Pro Football Weekly," that has an article about them asking "Who is No.1?"
"Every day I'm just going to look at it," Johnson said. "Who is No. 1? If I want to be that top dude, I've got to compete with the top two."
But 1,800 yards is, well, a lot of yards. Last year, Harrison set a NFL record with 143 catches and finished with 1,722 yards. Only Jerry Rice (1,848 in 1995) has hit 1,800 in a season. No Bengal has ever had a 1,300-yard season. If Johnson played the first four games of '02 like he played the last dozen, he would have averaged 90.6 yards per game and finished with only 1,450 yards.
But goals are good, and those 1,450 yards would have been second in the NFL to Harrison, ahead of Randy Moss' 1,347. New Bengals receivers coach Alex Wood, who was the Vikings quarterbacks coach when Cris Carter and Randy Moss gave Minnesota the NFL's best 1-2 wideout duo, knows what a big-time receiver is all about.
"He's not there yet. He's got all the tools, but he has to stay with it," Wood said of Johnson's bid for the elite. "He's on track. He just has to stay the course and not get frustrated. Keep learning the philosophy of finishing and play on the field as well as the preparation of getting on the field."
Johnson's contagious personality has made its mark on the Bengals' new coaching staff. He ran everything during last year's practices, including scout-team routes, and he's up to his energetic self. He even sat in on a Marvin Lewis staff meeting this week when he poked his head in the office and sat in the last empty chair.
"Great guy," Wood said.
Johnson knows he needs to smooth out his rough edges, and he thinks the new Bengals' weight room is just what he needs.
"They've got stuff I've never seen before," Johnson said. "They've got sandbags, different weight combinations on working different parts of the body. As far as running, I've never done half that stuff we're doing out there. Endurance, agility, working your hips. And then just staying sharp, going out and catching every Monday and Wednesday."
Johnson filed a positive scouting report on Lewis. Maybe because he sees a few similarities.
"He's the head man around here," Johnson said. "There have been some changes. He's got that look, that walk. Like he's got the confidence. Kind of cocky, but not verbally."
TRADE RUMORS COMMENCE:** The Bears are meeting with USC quarterback Carson Palmer Saturday in Los Angeles, so let the speculation begin about Chicago trading up with the Bengals to get him at No. 1. The same buzz could be made about the Jaguars, a club that has also met with him. Would the Jags be willing to give the Bengals something (a second-round pick and quarterback Mark Brunell) to move up from No. 8? Probably not. According to league sources outside the Bengals, Palmer is headed to Cincinnati for a pre-draft visit, probably at the end of next week after they host Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich and Kansas State cornerback Terence Newman. He could be able to swing by head coach Marvin Lewis' first minicamp that weekend.
EDMONDS GETS NOD:** Chris Edmonds may now officially be the most versatile player in Bengals history. He starts this spring playing fullback, his third position since joining the club as a free-agent outside linebacker from West Virginia in 2001. The 6-3, 250-pound Edmonds, who became a tight end at the last training camp, has never carried the ball on any level since he began playing in fifth grade. But they now have just two fullbacks (Edmonds and free-agent Terry Witherspoon) and they think Edmonds is athletic enough and has enough blocking and catching abilities to make the switch.
"There's not much difference between playing linebacker and throwing yourself at the linebacker (to block)," Edmonds said. "You've got the advantage on offense because you know where you're going instead of having to react at linebacker."
FOLEY CLEARED:** Left outside linebacker Steve Foley really wrecked his right shoulder when he went down for the year in last season's third pre-season game. Running through the checklist Monday, he said he dislocated it, tore the rotator cuff, tore the labrum, and had bone chips. But he feels it will be back to normal in the next two months and that he should be able to line up at training camp.
But he's not sure how much he can do before then, although head coach Marvin Lewis said he has been cleared for next weekend's minicamp. So has cornerback Artrell Hawkins, coming off arthroscopic knee surgery in February for torn cartilage, as well as safeties Mark Roman and Lamont Thompson after they ended the season on injured reserve with torn knee cartilage.
Foley is more anxious than most to get back. Since missing the last month of the 2001 season
with a back strain, he hasn't played in the last 20 games and hasn't had a sack in the last two seasons. Foley, who led the nation with 18.5 sacks at Northeast Louisiana in 1997, had 9.5 in his first three seasons. At 6-3, 260 pounds, Foley is probably the biggest and quickest backer they have, but injuries and the drafting of end Justin Smith in 2001 cut down on his number of third-down snaps as a pass rusher. He hopes to get some more looks there this season.
"We've got two great rushers in Justin and Reinard (Wilson), so I'm not looking to be the No. 1 guy there," Foley said. "That's my thing, pinning the ears back and going after the quarterbacks. All you need is five snaps (during a game) or so to set up a guy and work him for a sack. But I'm looking to contribute what I can at linebacker and being the best all-around guy I can be there."
Foley admits the injuries "take a toll on you," but the rehab sessions in the weight room have him confident he can get his shoulder back to where it was.
"As far as my movement, rotation, and flexibility, it's fine," Foley said. "It's going to come down to me trying to get as powerful as I was before I got injured. I'm not there yet. We're scripting the weights so we can target more arm stretches. On (some) bench press, I'm not using the straight bar, but I'm using just the dumb bell with just one arm really working the shoulder."