Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Johnson pleaded guilty this week to a charge of selfishness in the first degree.
"You've got to be selfish," Johnson told Buffalo media as he prepared for today's game against the Bills. "You know what I don't like and I don't understand? Who made that word a bad word? It don't matter what position you play, you've got to be selfish at what you do. You have to want it! You have to. You already know at the receiver position unselfishness is a lot higher than everybody else's because we don't get to touch the ball very often. We have to rely on a lot of people for it to go right for us. So our selfishness is higher than everybody else's."
"You know how I play the game and the way I am," Johnson said. "I'm an easy target for that word selfish because of my flash, my flamboyance, my mouth, all the stuff that I do."
Johnson's talking ability is exceeded only by his playing ability.
He has been voted NFL All-Pro three straight years. He is one of a handful of NFL players who fans specifically pay to watch. There will be a lot of eyes at Ralph Wilson Stadium today focused on -- and worried about -- the graceful form wearing No. 85 in white.
But Johnson's ability to talk, prance and show off have become the subject of debate in Cincinnati. Is his selfishness getting in the way of a Bengals team that's off to a disappointing 2-5 start?
Hogwash, says the man who calls himself Ocho Cinco as he launched into his next rant -- all-time great receivers.
"Michael Irvin? Selfish," Johnson said. "Keyshawn (Johnson)? Selfish. Throw me the damn ball. Jerry Rice? Selfish. Worse than all of us. That's the only way you can put up the numbers you're putting up. You've got to be selfish -- but within the team aspect. I'm selfish within the team aspect. People are forgetting that. You never heard me fuss about not getting the ball."
Ahem. That sure looked like complaining on the sideline a month ago after Carson Palmer threw an interception in your ugly loss to New England.
"You look at me and Carson on Monday night, right, and yes, we're fussing," Johnson said. "Me and Carson took a trip four years ago to watch Marvin (Harrison) and Peyton Manning. What we got out of Marvin and Peyton Manning was we saw perfection in every play for four quarters straight. And we told ourselves, 'We want to be just like that.' "
"So Carson and I have been perfect the past four years, and that was our first interception in so long and we got on each other," Johnson said. "What you saw Monday is what we do when we're in practice every single day for the past four years. I get on his [butt], he jumps my [butt]. The problem is if he and I had walked off that field after a pick and ain't said a word to each other, that's . . . what people need to be talking about."
Johnson is a lighting rod for talk, simply because he's so hard to ignore.
He is a born entertainer. His more than a dozen end-zone touchdown celebrations have included: a Riverdance jig; a mock marriage proposal made on his knees to a Bengals cheerleader; handing out gifts to fans, Santa-like, from a Christmas sack; and using a pylon to putt the ball into an imaginary golf hole.
Obnoxious? Perhaps. But even Johnson's detractors must admit the guy is fun. There's a certain likability to Johnson because of his sense of humor and magnetic personality that sets him apart from your average diva receiver.
"I'm having a ball," Johnson said. "You guys know that this is a business. This is a very dirty business. And every time I touch the field I pretend I'm a little kid again on the schoolyards. That's all I think about."
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis says Johnson's irrepressible enthusiasm is a good thing.
"When people try to clip his wings back a little bit nationally, I don't like that Chad because then he goes into his shell," Lewis said.
Johnson did not sound inclined to spring any new celebrations on Bills fans today, should he get into the end zone. He knows he needs to lay low, with the Bengals' playoff hopes on life support.
"I can't be Chad Johnson when we're 2-5," Johnson said. "If you ever think about the things that I do, it's never when we're losing. Never."
Johnson leads the NFL with 104 receiving yards a game. He is gunning to lead the AFC in receiving yards for a fifth straight year.
Asked who he considered the best cornerback he ever has faced, Johnson paused.
"You know why I would have to put Jabari [Greer] and [Terrence] McGee in that top 10 or that top five of great corners in the NFL because they play on an island by themselves at some point," he said.
Nice try, Chad. But if you glanced at your scouting report, you know the Bills play a heavy dose of double coverage versus star receivers.
"I'm trying to lobby for it," he admitted. "I'm not going to get it, huh? I don't know if you guys caught onto that, but I'm trying to lobby for some one on ones."
So Chad came clean. Hey, you can't blame a guy for being selfish enough to want one-on-one coverage.