BENGALS GAMEDAY: Photos, analysis, video highlights, stats, quotes* * *
Posted: 1 a.m.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - Chad Johnson talked and Bills safety Donte Whitner trashed him over the middle in the final two minutes of Sunday's 33-21 loss to the Bills.
Johnson lay face down on the Bills 35 after Whitner drilled him in the chest while breaking up a pass and submerged Ralph Wilson Stadium into a scene painfully reminiscent of the one that took place Opening Day against the Broncos.
Johnson was strapped on a board and taken to an ambulance, but that's where the similarities ended with Bills tight end Kevin Everett. Everett suffered a fractured spine and is just now beginning to move his arms and legs.
It all began more than 10 minutes earlier, when Johnson dropped what looked to be the game-breaking play. With the Bengals leading, 21-19, and staring at a third-and-eight on their 22, quarterback Carson Palmer rifled a slant pass to Johnson dancing in a wide-open seam at the Bengals 42. It sure looked like if he caught it, he was gone for a 78-yard touchdown that would have given the Bengals a 28-19 lead.
"I didn't see the end of it," Palmer said. "Ninety-eight out of 100 times Chad makes that play. ... I don't think (the drop changed momentum). I never felt like we had it."
"I saw Chad looking at me; he wasn't looking at the football," Whitner said. "That's probably why he dropped the ball and took a bad angle on that and luckily he dropped it. We had words after that play. He told me 'I'm going to get that.' I said, 'OK, next time you come across there I've got something for you.'
"I didn't try to hurt him or anything. It was a clean, legal hit. Other teams will see that and see how physical we play and now they're going to be looking. So we're going to continue to play physical. I hope he's alright. They said he had movement in all his parts so that's good. I hope he's healthy and able to play next week or the following week. "
Just like former Browns safety Brian Russell got jacked up enough to hit Johnson in the chin and send him into La-La Land last season, Whitner knows there is a bounty on Johnson's head because of his mouth.
"When you get a chance to hit a guy that talks so much and everybody I had this week (said) please hit Chad Johnson, please hit Chad Johnson, and that's how everybody feels, especially when you have a good player that talks so much," Whitner said.
One of the things that makes Johnson dangerous and exciting is he almost always avoids taking a shot. But Whitner showed why he's one of the emerging young defenders in the AFC.
"Guys like that, that are great players," Whitner said. "You rarely get a great hit on them because they're going see you out of the corner of their eye and they're going to get down and they're going to do something."
In the two games since Johnson has stepped out of the limelight because of the "selfish" criticism, he has a combined 98 yards after Sunday's season-low 48 yards on three catches and three big drops.
But friend and foe were happy to see Johnson is fine. Everybody likes this guy and it showed as both teams huddled near the stretcher and some of the Bengals coaches came off the sidelines. T.J. Houshmandzadeh accompanied him to the hospital.
"Any time a fan favorite goes down like that or anybody, you want to show your support and hope that everything is OK," said Bengals cornerback Johnathan Joseph. "He's such a major asset to this team. We're losing the game and he goes down as we're trying to fight back."
Defensive end Bryan Robinson did think about Everett even though everyone saw Johnson move his legs on the field. Word filtered back into the locker room that he was up and around and going to get his neck CT scanned. Wide receiver Glenn Holt saw Johnson in the X-ray room near the locker room and reported he felt OK.
"We all love Chad to death; it's scary when that happens to anyone," Robinson said. "I know that happened with the tight end up here. That stuff starts coming into your mind and it puts everything into perspective.
"I talked to my wife about it. It just brings you back down to what really matters. We get paid to do this. We make it important. (The media) makes it important. We need to do that, but when something like that happens, it brings you back down to earth; what's really important."
Wide receiver Chris Henry is eligible to return this Sunday, although Lewis wouldn't say it officially after the game. It figures in a year the Bengals have been so burdened by injuries that Henry would return in a game Johnson could be shelved.
"Chad is as good as anybody we have on this team, as good as any player around," Palmer said. "Chris is going to have to come and really step in and fill his shoes."