This week: Chad's new leaf

Posted: 5:30 a.m.



MIAMI - After a month Chad Johnson floated through a South Beach photo shoot in GQ, starred in a commercial combine of Pro Bowlers for the NFL Network, and served a stint as the Bert Parks-Boomer Esiason of the league's cheerleader pageant, finally covered No. 85 this past weekend as he kicked back one last time before Saturday's start of training camp.

Where else to begin the season but where he hopes to end it helping his team to the Super Bowl in his town?

In a story coming later this week to help fans begin defense of the AFC North title, Johnson reveals he has turned over a new leaf as he enters his sixth season. Not only does he come in with a two-year contract extension that keeps him a Bengal through 2011, he also arrives with a better idea of the impact he has on his team.

It's not lost on him that last season not only ended in the Wild Card loss to the Steelers, but that his halftime temper tantrum became an example of how the young Bengals melted down in crunch time.

Johnson takes one of those hands that have caught the most yards in the NFL the past two seasons and puts it in a straight line to emphasize trying to be more even keel.

"I've turned over a new leaf," Johnson says. "I realized that I have to change after talking to the coaches. I realize that I have to be straighter, more consistent.

"I think my teammates feed off me, like Ray Lewis in Baltimore, although I think it's kind of different to have an offensive player like that. I can't let emotions carry me away all the time. It's a matter of maturing. I think I've done that."

He's talking a new leaf, not a new life. He still wants the ball when it matters most.

And he's going to celebrate even though the NFL crashed his party last March with some new rules prohibiting end-zone fun.

"I think I can do things nobody else in the league can do even though teams try to take me out of the game," he said. "But it's not because I'm selfish, it's because I think I can help us win.

"This is going to be a fun year. I'm getting ready to entertain."

Johnson also talks about his hopes for an acting career as well as hosting a weekend charity event in Cincinnati.

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