CINCINNATI -- Chad Johnson showed up for the start of the Cincinnati Bengals' mandatory minicamp on Thursday. Beyond that, nothing was clear.
The disgruntled receiver didn't participate in the morning workout after telling the team he's got an ailment -- fittingly, there were conflicting descriptions of what was wrong.
After the team asserted that he had refused to practice, Johnson went out for the afternoon workout, caught a few passes during drills, then removed his helmet and covered his head with a white towel, a signal that he was done.
Johnson was the center of attention Thursday from the moment he joined his teammates on the practice field -- 12 minutes after the session started -- until the day ended with no resolution to the overriding question for the Pro Bowl receiver and his team.
Can this impasse get resolved?
"It depends on how it's approached by both sides -- how he approaches it, how they approach it," said receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who is Johnson's closest friend on the team. "If it will be a problem, if it won't be a problem, it's hard to tell. Training camp is so far away."
Since the end of last season, Johnson has been pushing for a trade. He stopped talking to the local media after his behavior was criticized during the Bengals' 7-9 season. Agent Drew Rosenhaus tried to get the Bengals to trade Johnson before the draft, but they refused.
Then, Johnson claimed he would sit out the season. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis called his bluff, urging him to go ahead and do so.
Johnson skipped the voluntary offseason workouts, but was required under threat of fine to attend the three-day minicamp that started Thursday. He showed up, and the intrigue began.
The team released a statement saying he had passed his physical, didn't report any problems to the doctor, and was cleared for practice.
"Later, after the physical was concluded, Chad told our training staff that his back was sore," the team's statement said. "He refused to practice."
Refusing to practice left Johnson subject to discipline. He had a brief chat with Lewis on the practice field before the afternoon workout, then caught some passes in drills before taking the rest of the workout off.
In the meantime, Rosenhaus disputed the team's assessment. He said Johnson has a sore back, but that's not why he's sitting out. The agent said Johnson has an ankle problem that could require surgery.
"Chad is not refusing to practice," Rosenhaus said, in an interview. "He's not practicing because he has an (ankle) injury that easily could lead to an operation."
In response, the club acknowledged that Johnson was bothered by a sore ankle last year and that the team recommended he have surgery to clean it out at the end of the season. Johnson chose not to have surgery. The club said the ankle isn't bad enough to keep him off the field.
If Johnson's impasse drags into training camp, both sides have a big problem. Already, Johnson's teammates are tired of the whole thing.
"You know what? I'm going to pass on talking about Chad today," quarterback Carson Palmer said. "I think everybody in here is probably sick of hearing about him, and everybody out there is sick of hearing about him. So I'm not going to talk about him."
Johnson declined to talk to reporters. Houshmandzadeh, who worked out with him last week, said he's not sure what's going on in Johnson's mind.
"I don't know what he's thinking, I really don't," Houshmandzadeh said. "He called me last night and said he wasn't coming, but I knew he was lying. I was on my way to the airport, so I knew he probably was already here. But I don't know what he's thinking. I don't know. I can't speak for him."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press