CINCINNATI - Chad Johnson has a new editor for his provocative checklists — an unamused head coach with a finger on the delete key.
The Bengals’ star receiver created a special list for his locker this week, tweaking the Baltimore Ravens as a lead-up to their game. When he arrived on Wednesday morning, he found it had been replaced.
A new checklist challenged the Pro Bowl receiver to study, block and lead — and, indirectly, to keep his mouth shut heading into a game that the Bengals (6-2) need to win to ensure they’ll stay in first place in the AFC North.
Coach Marvin Lewis was now editor-in-chief.
“He messed up my fun for the week, man,” Johnson said with a disappointed shake of his shaved head.
Lewis quickly and proudly fessed up to replacing the provocative checklist late Tuesday night, laminating his version just before midnight.
“His list was good. My list is important,” Lewis said with a broad smile and serious tone. “It’s up there.”
And there it shall stay, replacing one that wasn’t up long enough for outsiders to see. Johnson declined to say what was on it, fearing his coach’s wrath.
“He took it,” Johnson said. “That could have made the Hall of Fame of all lists. That was a good one.”
It wasn’t his first.
At the start of the season, Johnson posted a laminated list in his locker with a headline asking: Who covered No. 85 in ’05? Each opponent and its top cornerback was listed below, followed by checkoff boxes for a “yes” or a “no” decision.
At road games, fans have made up their own versions of the checklist, having a little fun with the fun-loving receiver. Lewis hated the list, bristling whenever it was mentioned. But he left Johnson’s locker alone — until now.
Johnson is particularly excited facing the Ravens’ defense. He has spent time learning techniques from Deion Sanders, and heard a lot of stories about Ray Lewis from his head coach, who was the Ravens’ defensive coordinator when they won the 2000 NFL title.
“This is my week here, man,” Johnson said. “This is the week of all weeks. I’ve been waiting for Baltimore.”
Last year, Johnson had two solid games against the Ravens. He caught eight passes for 99 yards in a 23-9 loss in Cincinnati, then caught 10 passes for 161 yards in a 27-26 comeback victory in Baltimore.
At his coach’s insistence, Johnson has toned down his talk leading up to games this season — no more win guarantees, no more antacid shipments to opposing defensive backs. The only thing that stood out was his checklist.
When Lewis learned of the new one during the players’ day off Tuesday, he made sure no one would see it. Lewis posted his own list asking whether Johnson does everything necessary this week — study extra tape, block, avoid mental errors and so forth — to help his team win, followed by blank “yes” and “no” boxes.
Asked which one of them would decide which boxes to check after the game, Lewis summed up the entire situation in one word.
“Me,” he said.