Fans tap Chad

12-15-03, 8:05 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

If voting by players and coaches mirrors the ballots cast by fans, Chad Johnson is going to become the first Bengals wide receiver to go to the Pro Bowl since Carl Pickens in 1996. In balloting that ended last week, Johnson finished second in the AFC in fan voting with 541,489 votes, far behind the Colts' Marvin Harrison with 769,782, and ahead of the Jets' Santana Moss at 452,660.

The consensus ballots of NFL fans, players, and coaches each count one-third towards determining the 43-man rosters for the Feb. 8 game. The Bengals voted Monday and clubs have until Tuesday to cast ballots for the teams that are to be announced this Thursday.

Johnson, the AFC's receiving yardage leader with 1,211, is the only Bengal who made the fans' team. Quarterback Jon Kitna, second in the NFL with 25 touchdown passes and fourth in the AFC with a 91.8 passer rating, is fifth at a position that takes the top three. His 227,642 votes were barely behind fourth place Tom Brady of New England

(228,942), even though Kitna leads Brady in every category but attempts and yards, where he trails by only 64. The Chiefs' Trent Green (483,645) is comfortably in third behind two of the NFL's top three vote getters in leader Steve McNair of Tennessee with 896,189 votes and Peyton Manning of Indianapolis with 854,259.

Right tackle Willie Anderson, looking for his first Pro Bowl after two straight years as an alternate, finished eighth among the fans at 55,708, at another position that takes three. Anderson finished about 33,000 votes shy of Kansas City's John Tait at No. 3. Baltimore's Jonathan Ogden and Kansas City's Willie Roaf led the way, respectively.

Running back Rudi Johnson, 125 yards shy of 1,000, is 11th with Jacksonville's Fred Taylor 12th and teammate Corey Dillon 13th after a season he has been nagged by injury and illness. Kicker Shayne Graham, fifth in AFC field-goal percentage with 91 percent on 21 of 23, is ninth with 17, 011 among AFC kickers.

Johnson, who leads the Titans' Derrick Mason by 42 yards and Harrison by 58, is 63 yards from breaking Eddie Brown's single-season record for the Bengals in Sunday's showdown in St. Louis against the NFC's receptions yardage leader, Rams wide receiver Torry Holt and his 1,518 yards.

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