John Ross is taking the heat after two curious routes turned into two interceptions during Sunday's game in Carolina, but he's got his supporters despite Twitter tirades and web site wonks eviscerating his very being. You have to go to the top, where the franchise's two all-time receiving leaders are in his corner.
After Thursday's practice A.J. Green revealed he talked with his fellow wide receiver but politely declined to reveal the transcript.
"Nothing crazy. We had a conversation that was between us," Green said. "This league is a roller coaster. You just have to take the bumps and play through it."
Chad Johnson, the all-time leader Green is chasing, hopes to have a talk with Ross, too, and he may get the chance because he's planning on attending Sunday's game (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) in Atlanta. He may have got his tickets from another former Bengal wide out, current Falcon Mohamed Sanu, but he plans to visit Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis at the team hotel Saturday night and maybe spend part of the game on their Mercedes-Benz Stadium sideline.
"I called (Lewis) on his birthday and then the other night to set it up. I'm excited to see everybody. I try to make one a year. Usually it's in Cincinnati," Johnson said Thursday night. "I don't want to travel that much so I can watch my son play."
Can you believe it? Chad Johnson Jr., is a high school junior wide receiver in Los Angeles getting letters from colleges. The Ocho is now Big Papi. The man who brought reality TV to the NFL is keeping it real these days.
"He's bigger than me," said Johnson, when asked for a scouting report. "His style is like JuJu Smith-Schuster. "Not quick. But deceptively fast."
Johnson is a bit miffed with the recruiting process. Too many letters already.
"He's got to focus on his craft. If he does that, the rest takes care of itself," he said.
Johnson is hoping to give some advice to another young talent this weekend.
"Tyreek Hill and John Ross. He's special. He's one of two special guys in the NFL," said Johnson lumping Ross with the Chiefs' blazer. "Similar skill set. There's no reason he shouldn't be playing like that. Is Tyreek Hill that much better than John? No. It's just the mentality. The speed is already there. It's about applying it and just going out there and being a dog."
Johnson admires Ross. Ever since he set the NFL scouting combine's 40-yard dash record last year. He says it sounds like Ross is dealing with a lack of confidence he shouldn't have.
"I mean, (4.22) seconds? Who does that? Can you imagine? He can just fly," Johnson said. "He's got to be a dog. The guy I think about is Steve Smith. Steve Smith didn't care about anything but just going out and being a dog. That's all he needs. He's got to be thinking, 'When I get the ball, I'm gone. I'm out of here.' Every time he touches it, he's got to be thinking 'House Call.'"
Johnson already had the mentality, but what turned it around for him was a come-to-Kitna conversation after the fifth game of his second season. (For the record, Ross is heading into the fourth game.) After Johnson dropped a ball at the Colts 25 in the last two minutes of a game the Bengals trailed, 28-21, quarterback Jon Kitna got on Johnson about channeling his talent and energy into focus. The next year he went to the Pro Bowl.
"He can get it. He can get that kind of mentality," Johnson said. "That's what I'll tell him."
It's so fitting The Ocho shows up at this one, this block party of receivers. There is Green and the Falcons' Julio Jones. There is Sanu and the guy that replaced him in Cincinnati, Tyler Boyd, on pace to have 1,328 yards in a bid to hit a plateau in Bengaldom only known by Johnson and Green. There is the Falcons' Calvin Ridley, this year's first-rounder coming off last week's three-TD game, and the Bengals' Ross, last year's first-rounder coming off a game with three balls he couldn't bring in.
But he's got the two big guys with him.
"I love his game," said Johnson and he'll tell Ross that, too, if he gets the chance.