6-18-01, 7:45 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Chad Johnson returned to the Bengals with nothing hanging over his head but an underthrown football.
It was put there by receivers coach Steve Mooshagian during Monday's Johnson & Johnson mini camp to soothe the absences of receivers unable to attend last month's workouts.
Johnson, the second-round pick who is supposed to revive Cincinnati's down-field passing game, was joined by Malcolm Johnson, a third-year receiver picked up last week off waivers from the Jets. Also getting a crash course Monday were Johnson's Oregon State teammate T.J. Houshmandzadeh, a seventh-round pick, and college free agent Chris Rosier.
But it's Chad Johnson, his 6-foot-1 frame, and 4.4-second 40-yard dash speed getting all the attention in his first appearance since the May 7 mini-camp finale.
Johnson reported to the Bengals Monday he has completed his 30 days of community service stemming from a domestic incident with a girl friend during his time at Santa Monica Junior College.
He had to pick up trash, clean off graffiti, and whatever other odd jobs were needed by the California county. Terms of his probation apparently also dictate counseling, but that can be done in Cincinnati.
"Why do you want to talk about that? It's over. I just want to talk football," Johnson said. "I did what I had to do and I'm moving on. That's the only reason I dropped (to the second round)."
Johnson's agent, Jerome Stanley, thinks it was a variety of factors that sent his client from possibly the top ten to the 36th pick in the draft.
"The domestic thing was a reason, but so was the fact he had only played one season of Division I ball," Stanley said. "And his 40 time at the combine was slow. That never helps. A fast guy who runs slow. But here's a guy who dominated at the Senior Bowl and has all the tools."
The Bengals were aware of Johnson's legal problems, but before the draft they were assured he wouldn't have to do jail time. And after offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski's stand-on-the-table endorsement of Johnson after coaching him for a week
at the Senior Bowl, the Bengals felt the risk minimal in the second round.
"I think we had a unique perspective that other teams didn't have with Bob and it certainly seems like (the domestic incident) was an isolated thing," said scout Duke Tobin. "Bob got to see how he learned and got to see him in the classroom and everything impressed him. Since he's been here, he's been nothing but enthusiastic, conscientious, and done everything we've asked."
Maybe it's lucky Johnson and Houshmandzadeh were the two major guys on offense who couldn't be here last month because Oregon State didn't graduate until this past weekend.
"This offense and the one I'm coming from is the same," Johnson said. "The routes, everything. The only thing different is the hot reads. You don't have to ask me if I'm behind. I've been working out every day. Monday through Sunday."
For Mooshagian, all the reasons he wanted Johnson were evident Monday after he threw some routes. It's clear Johnson has been working with quarterbacks including one from USC as he split time between Los Angeles and Florida the past six weeks.
"It's hard to read this kid's speed," said Mooshagian as he shook his head. "It looks like he's not running, but he's really moving. I mean fast."
That's not what worries Mooshagian at the moment. He remembers what training camp holdouts did last year to second-rounder Mark Roman and third-rounder Ron Dugans. Roman couldn't start at cornerback in a devastated secondary until the next-to-last week of the season, and Dugans went from Opening Day starter to fourth receiver.
"Chad's fine where he is," Mooshagian said. "By the end of next week, he'll have 75 percent in and with the bye during the preseason we'll have no problem getting in the other 25 percent. But he
needs to be there on time. The biggest thing for Chad is not what he's missed, but making sure he's at training camp. I'd be surprised if he's late being there."
As Stanley said, "The people who have control over that are the people who work with Mooshagian."
Stanley said his contract talks with Bengals vice president Paul Brown are only in the preliminary stages, but he's not looking for fireworks.
"I think they know how important this guy is to them," Stanley said. "This organization has a track record of drafting stars in the second round. Look where they got one of the top running backs in the NFL (Corey Dillon) a few years ago."