9-25-02, 5:25 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Chad Johnson says his cousin is just like the rest of America and is down on his Bengals. The tough thing is that Johnson's cousin goes by the name Keyshawn and is the star receiver for the swaggering Tampa Bay team that comes to Paul Brown Stadium Sunday.
He admits he got into it during one of their phone conversations, which are virtually daily.
"He thinks it's going to be a walk in the park," Chad said before Wednesday's practice. "He thinks it's going to be easy. He wasn't even joking. He thinks he's going to come in and just catch all over everybody.
"People are not respecting us right now," Chad said. "I think we're going to get it together. We made a change. It was a positive change. Let's see what happens."
The Bucs had to go overtime last year to beat the Bengals, 16-13, back on Dec. 2, but it might as well have been Dec. 2, 1901. The Bucs are coming off a huge Monday night win
over the Rams and the 0-3 Bengals are coming off a national humiliation on Sunday night, and haven't been in a game while getting outscored, 84-16.
"They've turned to Akili Smith to quarterback and Chad Johnson, the only Bengals' receiver to catch a touchdown pass and a ball of at least 20 yards, thinks there are going to be some big plays.
"I told (Keyshawn) it's the NFL," Chad said. "We might be going through some things now, but you're just not going to be able to come in here and run all over the place.
"He was kidding me, asking if I wanted to borrow some of his catches."
Keyshawn's 12 catches for a 15.2-yard average apparently weren't enough to keep him out of his coach's face Monday night. He got into a televised heated debate with Bucs coach Jon Gruden and Chad knew exactly what it was about even before he talked to his cousin after the game.
"I knew he was fussing about not getting the ball. It couldn't be anything else," Chad said. "He was still mad about it. He'll get the rock this game."
He got the ball seven times for 84 yards with a long of 34 the last time in Cincinnati. Chad had just two catches for 27 yards with his longest 15 yards that day. He does have a TD this year (Keyshawn doesn't) and he has a better yards per catch than Keyshawn at 15.6. But he's only got five catches.
"I've got to show him up. I can't let him do that to me in my house," Chad said.
Chad admitted Keyshawn's rampage reminded him of when he went off on Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna in Baltimore late last season as they argued over routes and how Keyshawn gave him some counsel.
"I told him, 'How are you going to tell me about being a pro on the sidelines and you did what you did?'" Chad said. "The thing about Key is, he's going to get his. You can contain him, but you can't stop him."
Like everyone else, Chad is baffled by why the Bengals can't throw the ball.
"I don't know what's going on," he said. "Look around at our talent and how many NFL teams can match up with us? . . .We haven't thrown it down field much. . .I think we're going to get it together, but we've got to hurry before we get too far behind. If you lose too many games, that hungriness for the game just goes away."