Fans around the NFL are very familiar with Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson.
He dances. He prances. He performs mini-skits and eye-opening antics in the end zone. And he's provided his share of quotes that end up prominently displayed in the national media and on the opponents' locker room bulletin boards.
But this week, the impetuous Bengal handled his conference call with the media with a bit more balance.
Sure, there were moments he appeared to be full of himself. Like when he answered questions about the list of defensive backs on his locker. Since he thought Marlin Jackson would be his opponent at the time he made up that list, it's Jackson's name that is prominently displayed on his locker heading into this game.
"I'm not sure if I'll see him," Johnson said. "But I made a list previously way before the season started, like sometime after April, with him being a drafted player, so I just thought he would be the starter at the time."
Johnson uses the list to record whether or not his opponent was able to hold him in check during the game. And if he battles with veteran cornerback Nick Harper instead?
"I'll put tape over the name, and I'll just put Nick Harper," he said. "I'll write Nick Harper, and then I'll just check, ‘No.'"
And of course, he fielded questions about whether or not he'd be doing anything special during the game. His response had the intended impact, making it's way into many media articles.
"My plan this week is Martha-Stewart like, I like to call it. It's going to be very exciting," he said. "I can't tell you, but you have to watch. It's going to be fun. It's probably going to keep you on the edge of your seat, trying to figure out what I'm going to do next."
But shortly thereafter, a more respectful, polished and business-like tone started to show through in his answers. So you know he's aware that he's got one of the most formidable opponents on the horizon – with a lot on the line for his team and him personally. The game will help determine if the Bengals are young, talented, but inexperienced upstarts who can't handle the pressure of a big game – or a team that will truly be a force in this year's playoffs.
After talking about his "plan" he quickly shifted gears to point out that a touchdown celebration on his part wasn't a given against this Colts defense.
"Hopefully, if I can get in the endzone," he added. "The defense is good, it's very good. They don't do that much, but the stuff they do, they do it so (exceptionally) well. It's ridiculous."
That more balanced response may be due to one thing that Johnson noted that was a valuable learning experience for him and the Bengals -- their loss earlier this year to Pittsburgh.
"There's always going to be a winner and a loser, and all you can do is go out there and work your tail off," he said. "Whether you come out with a win or a loss, each person individually has to know they gave it their all each week. And somebody has to win. You're not going to win them all, but you just take the same approach the next week and just keep on going."
That's a trait common to both the Colts and the Bengals this season. And Johnson has seen it modeled extremely well by Indianapolis.
"The Colts usually have been carried by their offense," he said. "But now, watching them on film, I've watched four or five games, everything, the offense is still there, but championships are won with your defense, and the way their defense is playing, they are looking like a championship-caliber team. They always make it to the playoffs every year, and I think this would be the year that they probably go all of the way."
Despite that respectful outlook on the Colts and what they are accomplishing, Johnson is hopeful that the Bengals can give them a run for their money all the way to the Super Bowl.
"We have to just continue to be consistent like we've been all year," he stated. "We've stumbled up twice on Jacksonville and Pittsburgh, and we've fixed the reasons why we lost those games, which were very, very small areas that we need to fix."
And the Bengals' best chance to beat the Colts this Sunday according to Johnson?
"We have to match everything—their intensity, the way they play offensively, our offense has to match their offense, our defense has to match theirs. That's why I say it's going to be such a good game."
In an attempt to learn more about how to match that star-studded Indy offense, Johnson and quarterback Carson Palmer drove up to the RCA Dome last year to watch the Colts play the Vikings. But what was their main focus as they studied the Colts offense?
"To watch how Peyton and Marvin operate without having to really show any signs of communication," he explained. "That's one of the things we're trying, we're trying to see how they are on that same page all of the time. And we watched as much as we could from a visual standpoint and picked up as much as we could by watching those two work.
"I think, from what I see and the numbers that they put up, they communicate outside of the Indianapolis offensive system, which has taken their level of play to a whole new level. And they're on their own page, which is I think why they're so successful."
So with all that said, would Johnson go out on a limb or attempt to fire up his teammates and the Colts by guaranteeing a victory?
"No. I guarantee it's going to be a very good game, that's it," he said. "They're 9-0, we're 7-2. What more needs to be said? It's going to be a very good game."
That's highly likely. But let's hope that it won't be that good of a game for the Bengals in front of a national audience. A domination by the Colts at this point would be a blow to Cincinnati's confidence should they meet the Colts again once the postseason arrives.
And the icing on the cake would be if everyone who tunes in for the game on Sunday afternoon doesn't have to find out how in the world Martha Stewart – of all people -- fits in with Chad Johnson's "plans" for this Sunday. That'll likely be one bizarre spectacle that I wouldn't mind missing.
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