Notes: Steady diet of Champ for Chad

Posted: 6:45 a.m.

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Johnson

Nothing is going to cramp Chad Johnson's style on the eve of the challenge he's looked forward to all season as he prepares to meet Broncos Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey.

Not even his cramps.

Johnson told the Denver media Wednesday in a conference call that he has been studying Bailey intently on tape.

"Every pass picked off, knocked down, every pass caught against him since Week 1," Johnson said. "I'm studying him to a 'T' and trying to find a way to get it done."

The Bengals have also been doing that with the so-called "Chad Problem." After Johnson missed a chunk of the third quarter Monday night with yet another IV session, ESPN interjected some criticism of his diet.

But head coach Marvin Lewis defended how the NFL's leading receiver takes care of himself, saying his ongoing affair with McDonald's is overblown and that a nutritionist has actually given him a checklist of things to eat.

"Something he could relate to," said Lewis, referring to the cornerback checklist. "He eats the right things."

Michele Macedonio, the Cincinnati nutritionist the club has brought in to work with players and is credited with helping transform running back Rudi Johnson from bowling ball to bowling pin, copied the Chad-ian checklist.

Like Johnson, she laminated it with a heading. Only this one reads, "The Challenge. Can 85 Beat The Cramps?" Like Johnson, she put "Yes" and "No" columns, but replaced the names of cornerbacks with days of the week and a menu for each day.

Whether he's following it is anyone's guess because when he's asked about why he's had to leave so many games because of IVs, he says he won't talk about it.

But it appears to be a byproduct of simply the way he's made and how he drives himself. Lewis partly joked Wednesday, "He's just a guy that needs to hydrate. It's part of him. It's from talking too much. He hyperventilates himself, he dries out, and he needs an IV."

Chip Morton, the club's strength and conditioning coach, says Johnson is a high-energy guy who is constantly working on the field and in the weight room and naturally loses a lot of fluid.

"The guy's good with us in here and he's always working," Morton said. "He's always doing something."

As if on cue, Johnson lunched on chicken and rice Wednesday at his locker.

"The McDonald's thing is a thing just to get you guys to think about it," Lewis said. "He goes to McDonald's to get hotcakes. He likes pancakes. He goes and gets McDonald's breakfast. Instead of getting pancakes here, he gets pancakes on his way here. It's not a big deal."

Lewis said Johnson has been tested and the results simply say he has to hydrate. Although Johnson has never hid his fondness for Big Macs, Lewis insists that he eats mostly the pancakes.

Johnson delivered a wide receiver's equivalent of a pancake on Bailey the last time the duo met two years ago on Monday Night, when 149 of his yards came on two 50-yard catches against Bailey in one-on-one jousts.

"Take away one touchdown, the first one, because he fell. So knock out 50 yards," Johnson told the Denver reporters. "I don't want to say luck, but I got open on (the second) one. The rest was mediocre routes that I was able to make some plays."

In keeping up his strategy of the last six weeks or so, Johnson pumped up his next foe in Michael Jordan fashion. Although, to be fair, every time Johnson mentions the NFL's top cornerbacks he always mentions Bailey first.

"Big, big, much respect to Champ. He's the best man to ever wear a uniform, period," Johnson said. "Besides Deion (Sanders). It goes without saying, it's going to be an exciting week for me, an exciting week for him. It kind of puts me in perspective, where my game is as one of the elite receivers in the game. His game already speaks for itself. I'm really looking forward to it. He doesn't need anything extra. He's already the best in the game. What more do you need?

"He's consistent year in and year out. Name another defensive back in the NFL who is consistent year in and year out. Please. Year in and year out. Not two years in the league. Year in and year out."

With the Bengals flying into Denver a day early on Friday night so Lewis can get his team acclimated to a new stadium - INVESCO Field - not to mention the altitude and two-hour time difference, Johnson says he's going to make sure he and Bailey meet for dinner.

They actually met through Sanders when both were at his WR-DB camp in Dallas.

"(Bailey) being the best there, that's what really caught my attention," Johnson said. "That's when I understood what all the talk was about, about how he is the greatest."

Johnson has the three greatest receiving seasons in Bengals history. In order to have the greatest this year and break last year's club record of 1,432 yards, he needs that 149 he put up on Bailey, but over the last two games.

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Houshmandzadeh

T.J. TIME: T.J. Houshmandzadeh had one more catch (four) for 12 more yards than Johnson on Monday night, but his frustration with the game plan that was evident on the sidelines surfaced Wednesday. Asked if the Bengals game plan to pound away at the Colts last-in-the-NFL run defense took away from the offense's downfield strengths, Houshmandzadeh said, "I don't want to get too much into it. But 100 percent, yeah."

"I feel like we're at our best if we can run more than we pass, and we're running it well, whichever one you do well, that's what you do," Houshmandzadeh said. "But if you're not doing one well, you can't keep trying to do it."

Houshmandzadeh said he was frustrated because he felt like he was game-planned just to run around instead of running routes to get open. He said he felt the same way against New Orleans, but since the Bengals won, "it was easier to swallow.

"Chad played very well," Houshmandzadeh said of a 190-yard day. "If (Saints quarterback) Drew Brees played halfway decent we probably would have lost. But we won the game, so it doesn't matter."

But Houshmandzadeh is a key to the Bengals winning. This season when he catches four or fewer balls, the Bengals are 1-3 with the theory that he opens up the middle of the field so Johnson and Chris Henry can go long. With the Colts depleted middle patrolled by special team safeties Matt Giordano and Dexter Reid, some wonder why the Bengals didn't try to stretch them.

Houshmandzadeh is about to lose his title as the NFL's best receiver without a 1,000-yard season since he's 57 yards away.

"I just assume I'm going to get it," he said.

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Henry

HENRY DEFENDED: Of course, if Henry catches an eight-yard touchdown pass in the end zone on third down in the first quarter, the game plan might have worked with a 7-3 lead. But in a play that conjured up memories of the third-down drop in the end zone in the last minute of the eight-point loss to San Diego when he didn't go down for the ball, he let the Colts defender out-contest him for the ball.

When later he didn't lay out for two balls on the sidelines, the theory that he's afraid to take a hit since he took a hellacious hit over the middle against Pittsburgh Sept. 24 surfaced again. But Carson Palmer and receivers coach Hue Jackson staunchly defended him Wednesday.

Jackson said he and Henry have talked about that hit several times.

"I don't think that's the case. I could be wrong. I don't know because I'm not inside of his body," Jackson said. "I don't think that's affected him at all."

Jackson knows Henry is being questioned for giving his best efforts, but Jackson says he doesn't get the feeling he's not giving it.

"I didn't see non-effort," Jackson said. "Guys want to get their hands on the ball early and often and when you don't, sometimes guys have a tendency to feel they're not a part of it. The maturity process of being a pro is that every snap you've got to go like hell. You never know when it's going to be your opportunity. He needs to grow in that area. Does he need to grow in the area of being a football player and understanding 'hey, look it here, Carson can find me at any time?' Yeah. But to say he's struggling, I don't think that."

Palmer has made no bones about crawling all over Henry publicly and privately, but he says he'll still keep throwing him the ball.

"I definitely do (have faith in him). Chris and I work hard together. He practices hard and he plays hard," Palmer said. "He's still a young player. He's still in the developmental stages of his career. There's been times when he's taken plays off and I've told him about it. He's come right back with 100 percent effort and tried to work to get my trust back, gain my trust, and he's done a great job of that.

"I think he's one of the best receivers in this league, not on this team, in this league. And that's why I'm hard on him and that's why I won't lose faith in him because I know he's going to make big plays. Every receiver drops balls. I think he's dropped maybe two or three on the year. That's not very many compared to what goes around this league. I won't lose faith in Chris until he gives me a reason to."

SLANTS AND SCREENS

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Thornton

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The memory of Broncos tackle George Foster taking out Bengals defensive tackle Tony Williams with a season-ending broken leg on one of the Broncos' dreaded cut blocks the last time the clubs met two years ago has faded. The Bengals were so furious back then that Denver head coach Mike Shanahan felt compelled to bring the media into a room to watch tape of other teams blocking the same way that included the Bengals.

"There have been worse blocks," Thornton said Wednesday of the play in which an offensive lineman takes out the defensive lineman's legs. "Everybody does it now. The Falcons do it. Green Bay was a lot worse. They were dirty. A lot of teams do it now. Guys have got to get you on the ground. They feel like if they chop you down, they feel that's the best way to get to the second level."

Thornton has no animosity toward Foster and says, "That's the way he's coached. We can still run into Shanahan on the sidelines."

They may run into Foster on the sidelines. The only reason he's played lately is because Adam Meadows has been down at right tackle, but he's probable this week.

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Lewis is bringing his team to Denver a day early and there are a variety of reasons. They'll get a walk through Saturday at INVESCO Field , the new stadium the Bengals haven't seen yet. There's also a two-hour time change and the notorious change in altitude.

Linebackers coach Ricky Hunley, who played four seasons in Denver, believes the altitude does affect foes and it's a reason the Broncos are so good at home.

"I used to get there a few weeks before training camp just to get used to the air," Hunley said.

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Running back Chris Perry showed up on crutches to shoot the breeze with teammates. He's got a plate and screws in his broken leg and it's not known yet if he'll be ready for the first minicamp.

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