Trashy sub plot

Outrageous vs. Outlandish in a Trash Talk Showdown that should be played in a dumpster and sponsored by Hefty.

Bengals Pro Bowl wide receiver Chad Johnson vs. Fred Smoot, all-purpose Vikings cornerback.

And, it's all in fun and all about good clean competition. Really. It even has the seal of approval from both head coaches. So just relax and have fun. As Johnson and Smoot will tell you, a NFL game doesn't always have to be treated like some day-long Hello-My-Name-Is-Same-Old-Smith seminar at the Holiday Inn.

"Malicious? You couldn't say that because of my personality," Johnson said Wednesday when asked if people take his many words the wrong way. "You know I'm not going off that way. When (he and Smoot) do it, it's from a trash talk standpoint. That's everyone else looking in. But we already know that it (means), 'Here we go again. Just like last year. Just like in the Senior Bowl five years ago.' And it's going to raise the level of our play."

Some guys shake hands and say, "Good luck." Johnson and Smoot are out of the school that says, "I'm going to wipe the field with you," but it means the same thing.

"Jeremiah Trotter got ejected. We might get ejected in pregame. No telling," Smoot told the Minnesota media Wednesday. "He's waiting to see what I'm going to say. Like I said, we do this. This is going to be a verbal match just like it's going to be a physical match. The best thing about it is he can talk it and walk it. That's what makes you a great talker."

This is a mutual admiration society.

"Fred is one of the only guys than can talk and play at the same time," Johnson said.

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has reigned in Johnson's comments in the past, and as recently as Monday Johnson joked that Lewis is turning into Taciturn Tom Coughlin. But Lewis has coached both (he had Smoot in Washington), and he knows the difference between being ridiculous and having fun and he's with the guys on this one.

"Both guys are good players. If you put them in this room, you couldn't tell apart because they're both the same," Lewis said. "They both feel very good about themselves, and they're talented. I've had the pleasure of coaching them both and they're both a lot of fun."

Lewis loves Johnson because of his energy and that's why Tice loves Smoot, a free agent this year from the Redskins.

"The energy on the defense isn't the same as it is when he's not out there," Tice said. "He can definitely talk. Between him and (tight end) Jermaine Wiggins, if they were in the same meeting for an hour, they might run out of oxygen . He's a very lively player. He has tremendous confidence in his abilities and I think rightfully so."

Tice sees a lot of Smoot in Johnson.

"It seems to me the stuff Chad does is in fun. It doesn't seem to be a detriment to their team," Tice said. "Others who aren't inside our locker room make it a bigger deal than the guys in our locker room. Fred likes to have fun. He certainly doesn't have any hatred in his heart when he speaks. He's having fun, which he does sometimes to keep things lively and I'm sure it pumps him up."

This is exactly what Johnson is talking about. He had quarterback Carson Palmer cracking up one time last year during warmups when he went up to an opposing assistant coach and asked, "Who's got to cover No. 85 today?"

"You never know what is going to come out of his mouth," Palmer said. "You don't think anything about it. He's not afraid to say anything to anybody at any time. You get used to it."

Johnson says he never would talk to a head coach before a game because, "they're too serious." He only did it once, and it was to apologize to Dick Vermeil of the Chiefs after he guaranteed during the week that the Bengals would win.

"I talked to him before and after," said Johnson, who wanted to make sure Vermeil knew he didn't mean it as an insult. "He said he didn't take it that way."

Asked what is the most outrageous thing he's ever said, he sat on his stool in front of his locker and thought as a media member who happened to be a woman sat down next to him.

"Will you marry me?" he asked her, and then said, "That might be the most outrageous thing."

Out in Minnesota, Smoot is having a good time, too.

"I've heard him say stuff 10 times worse than that and I'm sure you have, too," Smoot said of Johnson's early week challenge. "It doesn't really matter to me. There's nothing you can do to rattle me. You can catch a ball; that doesn't bother me either. Let's see you catch the next one."

Yes, he remembers that 2001 Senior Bowl.

"I got MVP out of jamming his (butt)," Smoot said. "It basically started there, with a long week of getting after each other and being in the game. Really, its mutual respect right there.

"I told a lot of people that year that I felt he was the best receiver in my draft, and I think he's kind of proving that."

Johnson, who caught six balls for 89 yards against Smoot's Redskins last year in the Bengals' 17-10 victory over Washington, is wary of his speed.

"Speed and hands," said Johnson, who also knows the Vikes have a big-time cornerback on the other side in Antoine Winfield. "He's very fast and very good. . .Everything is going to have to be perfect.

"Every team is going to have their players that set themselves apart from everyone else. It makes a difference in their defense, and Antoine and Fred are that."

The best way to get ready is for a couple of parting shots.

Smoot: "I'm following him. No matter where he goes. Inside, outside, in the backfield, I got him."

Johnson: "You and me, Smoot. Let's go"

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