The on field antics and wild style off the field certainly bring him attention. But, sometimes, all the focus on those things causes us to forget just how productive and talented Chad Johnson is.
Johnson's discontent with the lackluster management of the Bengals is no new story. Rumors abound that he will hold out or engage in crazy 'look at me' antics to try to gain his freedom from ownership.
But, certainly, reality is different than speculation.
"Am I coming back?" he asked rhetorically. "Of course I am. I told my coaches I'm going to California to act, but the truth is I may come back to the Bengals as early as June. I may be crazy, but I'm not stupid."
And, what if Johnson's desires were entertained? What if the Bengals did the right thing and allowed Johnson to pursue his dream of playing for an organization that appreciated him and cared about his future?
"If I can get out of Cincinnati, the sky's the limit," Johnson told ESPN the Magazine. "What could I do in a place like Philadelphia or Dallas? It would be ridiculous. It's gonna be like a whole new me, like Ocho Cinco 2.0."
While we are big fans and believe that he is being fair and honest in his desire to pursue employment in an environment that would be conducive to his being able to further his personal growth and expand his ability to contribute to a team that understood what team means; we do question his judgment.
Certainly, the desire to play for Dallas is self evident. Dallas brought in a similarly, intentionally misunderstood and explosively talented WR. And Dallas treated him with the dignity and respect his past performance and personal character warranted. They demonstrated their respect and passion for said receiver by giving him a big contract this off season. So, obviously, the prospect of playing in Dallas would be something a team oriented guy like Ocho Cinco would be desperately interested in pursuing. Particularly after seeing how Dallas compensated TO for his team first, locker room presence.
Clearly, the only attraction would be the chance to be the main target of one of the most successful Negro QB's of all time. The opportunity to play a role in the career of a future Hall of Famer who has been instrumental in the ongoing evolution of the NFL QB would be the type of thing one could hold on to long after one's playing days were over.
However, we warn Johnson: Learn from the past.
Philly showed that it has no respect for a sensitive, relationship oriented player. Rather than understand that certain players, because of their commitment to excellence, fair play and team, require closer relationships and better communication with management than others; the Eagles closed the door and cut off their last great player that fit this description.
If Johnson didn't learn from TO's experience in Philly that his desire to win a championship, be a team leader and further the character of the organization won't be met in Philly; well, we can only suppose that that means his desire to be part of the historic career of the groundbreaking Negro QB has somewhat skewered his judgment.
While we understand that the chance to be part of history is compelling, we would hope that Johnson would at least seek counsel from other great players who were in a similar situation to his own. Players locked into mediocre contracts with teams that weren't interested in building the character and requisite relationships to win championships. Players like Randy Moss. Like the aforementioned TO. Guys, who when nurtured with respect and care, showed the world that they were team players first.
And they did it despite carrying the albatross of a new, monster contract around their necks.
We only hope that Johnson can find the relationship he so desperately needs to fulfill his self worth.