Tank Treading on Thin Ice

The practice of professional athletes carrying weapons has become all too familiar. Although Tank Johnson is expected to plea not guilty next month on a weapons charge, that didn't keep head coach Lovie Smith from weighing in on the subject.

"I definitely have an opinion on that. No I don't think they should (carry a weapon)," said Lovie Smith. "Of course we're going to let it play out in the courts and the (NFL) Commissioner (Paul Tagliabue) will really decide what to do with Tank first before we get a chance to look at it, but of course we don't agree with guys carrying guns around if that was the case."

Johnson was charged on June 11th with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon after police allegedly found a loaded handgun in his GMC Yukon. He is scheduled to be arraigned on July 8 and is expected to plead not guilty.

Receiving a suspension is not out of the question for Johnson. Indianapolis safety Mike Doss will miss the first two games of the season after he pleaded no contest for firing a gun in Akron, Ohio last month.

Johnson is looking to improve from a pedestrian rookie campaign. The second round pick played in every game last season, but failed to find any kind of consistency.

The fact that Tommie Harris had such a successful year made Johnson look like even more of a project. Interior linemen frequently have slow starts to their careers as they adjust to the quality of blockers they face on a weekly basis.

Ian Scott was a non-factor as a rookie in 2003 and looked to be on the bubble to make the team last year, but went on to start 13 games and lead the defensive line in tackles.

The 6-foot-3, 300-pound Johnson is slated to be part of the rotation at defensive tackle behind Harris and Scott. His pass rush ability is what makes the Bears confident he can improve in his sophomore season. While he had just half a sack as a rookie, during his final two years at Washington he reached the quarterback 15 times.

If Johnson were to be suspended by the league or team, it would be a brief absence. Israel Idonije caught the eye of Smith during June OTAs and along with veteran Alfonso Boone would be the top options to fill in for Johnson.

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