Coach Bill Belichick, his players and the press alike were all throwing around descriptors like "explosive" and "dangerous" in reference to the Bengals offense Wednesday, but Cincinnati's Pro Bowl wideout, Chad Johnson, had a few choice words of his own.
In a conference call with the New England media, Johnson said, "You tell 37 [Rodney Harrison] I'm gonna knock his helmet off." The threat seemed facetious, and Johnson went on to voice respect for Rodney Harrison. He explained that he and Harrison talk frequently and described their phone conversations as "father-son" like.
Notorious for keeping a laundry list of players to beat (or, perhaps embarrass), the arrogant Johnson said, "The funny thing is I have this checklist, and it's somewhat getting frustrating, because I'm getting double and triple coverage. So I'm not getting a individual battle, which I'm hoping for." He went on to say that Asante Samuel is the one name on his "checklist" this week, and revealed that he and Samuel have been friends for four years.
Johnson said he didn't believe the Patriots, or any other team for that matter, has the guts to try and cover him with a single corner back.
"Mr. Belichick, I love him to death, but he won't [try to cover me with Samuel alone.]" Asked why not, Johnson replied confidently, "The same reason no one else has done it for the last three years. But tell him, please, if he feels free, just give me a little bit of one-on-one. I won't score. I'll stop at the one and go out of bounds or something."
"I think he has a little bit off his own style, but he's pretty good," said Belichick of Johnson on Wednesday. "He has a really good quarterback. He caught 90-something passes last year. I don't know how many yards it was. A lot. But he's good after the catch. He's good on intermediate routes. He's very good with the deep ball, and he's good with the run after the catch, so if you play too far off of him and they hit him on those short patterns, he can turn those into big plays."
Johnson, who has grabbed 204 passes for 2,843 yards and 19 touchdowns since Carson Palmer became the Bengals quarterback, was nonchalant about the whole press conference, eating his lunch – rice and baked chicken – and bragging with a mouth full of food for much of it.
"You tell Asante [Samuel] to make sure he continues to have help all four quarters or his 22 is gonna be 55 – you know, what it'd look like upside down," Johnson teased, before going on to hint at the only speck of fear in the whole conference call. "You tell Junior [Seau] when I'm done with him, never mind, I'm not going to pick on Junior. I could get hurt there."
You might think catching 90-plus passes in three consecutive seasons might be statement enough, but Johnson couldn't finish with out trash-talking the other Patriots starting defensive backs.
"I don't really know Ellis [Hobbs], so I'm gonna leave him alone until I get on the field, then I'm gonna pick on him," said Johnson. "You tellEugene Wilson if he hits me across the middle, we'll probably have to fight and get thrown out of the game right there on the spot. My last hit I was gonna take this year was in Cleveland and if anybody hits me like that again, it's going down."
He devoted the final words of his press conference to reminding the media not to forget to relay his messages.
Johnson is well known for performing elaborate end zone dances and his reputation as a trash-talker precedes him. However, as was the case Wednesday, running his mouth seems to be part of the game to Johnson. At times, it seemed almost lighthearted. He was asked how players react to it.
"The funny thing is it is funny, but in the back of their minds they know I mean business. I talk it but I mean business and I walk it. It is never in a negative or unsportsmanlike way. You know what I mean? They all understand it. That is what is so funny about it. Everybody understands that it is merely a challenge. Like last week, the thing between me and [Joey] Porter before the game. Now that was serious. It is mainly a challenge. Everyone has always stepped up to the challenge. The checklist is nothing but merely a challenge. Nobody takes offense to it. Everybody knows how I am and it is the way that I approach the game and play it."
Quote of Note:
Double-teamed during much of last weeks Bengals-Steelers game, Johnson was asked about his maturity in handling the fact that he only caught one pass. He responded: "I'm not going to lie. It took every bit of everything I have in my body. Everything. It got to the point where I was talking to myself on the sideline, 'What would God do in this situation?' It got to that point. But what kept me calm was Carson [Palmer]. Carson continually saying, 'It's a sign of respect. Don't get flustered, because when your number is called on, even though it wasn't, I'm going to need you to make the play for me.' He kept reiterating it so it kept me calm throughout the whole game."
Poteat; no need to meet and greet
Corner back Hank Poteat was re-signed by the Patriots today. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed. Initially acquired by the Patriots as a free agent in January of last year, Poteat has played in 10 regular-season games and five playoff games for New England. A sixth-year veteran, Poteat has played in 59 NFL games total during stints with the Steelers, Buccaneers and Patriots. Poteat went to training camp with the rest of the Patriots and was released on Aug. 29 along with five other players so the Pats could comply with the league's 75-man roster requirement on said date.
"He has a lot of familiarity with our system," said Belichick of Poteat on Wednesday. "It was a tough decision at the end of training camp on the 53-man roster. Hank has been very competitive and is very competitive. We just ended up going a little differently. Of course he's not eligible for the practice squad, so we weren't able to keep him that way."
In addition, the Patriots placed third-year cornerback Randall Gay on the reserve/injured list with a hamstring injury. Gay was injured on punt coverage in the third quarter of the Broncos game.
Today's practice was shorts, shoulder pads and helmets. The only player not seen during the portion of practice available to the media was corner backEllis Hobbs. Corey Dillon and Eugene Wilson, who both checked out of the Broncos game early, were present. … The Patriots lockers are arranged numerically in the locker room at Gillette Stadium. Hank Poteat (#32) was issued an empty locker between Ellis Hobbs (#27) and Chad Scott (#30), so the numbers get out of order there. Corey Dillon's locker also falls slightly out of order. The only player whose locker deviates greatly from the numerical organization is Vince Wilfork (#75), whose locker is with the other defensive linemen in the 90s. … The injury report was released today as well. Patriots players listed as "Questionable" include: Artrell Hawkins, thigh; Ellis Hobbs, wrist;Nick Kaczur, shoulder and Eugene Wilson with a hamstring injury. Players listed as "Probable" include: Tom Brady, right shoulder;Doug Gabriel, hamstring; Matt Light, knee and Ryan O'Callaghan with a head injury. Everyone listed on the injury report missed at least a portion of Wednesday's practice except Brady. … For the Bengals, Dexter Jackson, Rich Braham, Tab Perry and Frostee Rucker will all be out for Sunday's game. A.J. Nicholson is listed as "Doubtful." Antonio Chatman and Rashad Jeanty are both listed as "Questionable." The other Bengals on the injury report are listed as "Probable," including T.J. Houshmandsadeh.