Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

All hype and no hope for washed-up former NFL star

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Chad Johnson as a member of the Montreal Alouettes? Ocho-I don't think so.

In news heard around the world last week, the Montreal Alouettes confirmed former NFL Pro Bowl receiver Chad "formerly known as Ochocinco" Johnson will be working out and attending their mini-camp in Florida, which begins today.

If you do not remember Johnson, he is the once-prolific wideout whose talents on the field were often only eclipsed by his theatrics in and around the end zone. Though formerly a great player, this can't be more than an old tire-kicking publicity stunt, can it?

For starters, he is 36 years old. That would instantly make him the second-oldest receiver in the CFL after Geroy Simon (38), or third if Arland Bruce III still ends up finding a bridge he hasn't yet burned.

Milt Stegall played until he was 38, but that was only possible because his body hasn't seen a saturated fat since 1982, and his workout regimens could turn a Navy Seal into a Boy Scout.

Even though Johnson insists he is in great shape -- and he may well be -- only the rarest players -- such as Simon and Stegall -- can play that position effectively going into their late-30s, and avoid catastrophic injury while doing it. Simon and Stegall also have and had a mixed bag of savvy veteran tricks and tools to carry with them into their golden years. Johnson will be learning the Canadian game as a 36-year-old rookie.

While Johnson is not out of place in the discussion of former great NFL receivers with over 10,000 receiving yards, he hasn't been an impact player since 2010. In 2011 with the New England Patriots, he had only 15 catches for 276 yards, and that was two entire seasons ago. In 2012 he never made it onto the field with the Miami Dolphins because they released him the day after he was arrested for allegedly head-butting his now ex-wife, and in 2013 he did not play at all.

Which brings us to the next reason as to why Johnson is not an idea that should be entertained north of the border: Is this the kind of player the Alouettes want leading their football team? Because like it or not, his resumé, celebrity and former earnings are what will impress the young players the most, and I'm not sure he is the kind of guy you'd want them following around and emulating. The Alouettes may have a bit of a leadership void with the retirement of all-world pro Anthony Calvillo, but this does not appear to be the veteran presence you would want to step in and fill that void.

Recently, a number of Blue Bombers players spoke out against domestic violence in the "Break the Silence on Violence Against Women" campaign by the Manitoba government, and a number of B.C. Lions participated in a similar program. While professional football leagues are notorious for letting talent and ability overrule rap sheets and arrests, it sends a conflicting message when some member clubs affiliate with projects that encourage people to speak out against domestic violence, and another works out and toys with the idea of signing a player who has recently pled no contest to a domestic battery charge.

If Johnson has anything left in the tank and can figure out how to reinvent himself and be effective in the CFL, he would most certainly sell tickets and be a walking, talking highlight reel for the media. The more likely scenario, though, is he will be forced to come to terms with the fact the game of football eventually escapes us all, and just like Andre "Bad Moon" Rison -- who came to the CFL in 2004 and caught 14 passes for 174 yards -- some things are better left alone.

Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays in the Free Press.

Twitter: @DougBrown97

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 15, 2014 D5

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