So what, exactly, is in a name? For Miami Dolphins wide receiver Chad Johnson, everything. Johnson—formerly Ochocinco, formerly Johnson—sat down with Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald to explain the name change. And his words dripped with the "Old-Johnson" flavor from his days in Ohio.
“[A]nytime I score, not only am I celebrating, but fans have to follow along. Something real short: five, six seconds. Once you stand up, you know what to do," Johnson said.
The question—after Johnson essentially vanished last season—is just how much scoring will he be doing?
According to Johnson, about $100,000 worth. The six-time Pro-Bowler plans to send NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell a check for $100,000 after the final pre-season game to pay, in advance, for his touchdown celebrations.
Johnson's plan of sending Goodell a check reeks of confidence, something Dolphins fans might not share. After all, Johnson was folded into one of the most prolific passing schemes in the NFL, was on the receiving end of passes from Tom Brady—one of the league's preeminent passers—yet managed a measly 15 receptions and a single score.
And for the die-hard Patriots fans, who can forget Johnson's game-losing drop against the Buffalo Bills in Week 3 last season?
Johnson has an answer for that, as well: “Do you want to be honest? Do you want to know why my numbers dropped?” Johnson asked. “It’s because I got complacent, I got somewhat comfortable thinking I had the formula and could do it on my own."
Perhaps another reason his numbers dropped was because he was on the bench far too often to have a chance to put up decent stats. Johnson played only 331 snaps in 2011 (Calvin Johnson topped the league with 1066 snaps). To put that number into perspective, it was one fewer than Donte Stallworth and 60 less than Matt Willis. Raise your hand if you know who Matt Willis is.
No, Johnson could not do it on his own. He needed the Pats' coaching staff to have more confidence in him.
This offseason, Johnson isn't doing it on his own. He went back to what got him to playing at a Pro-Bowl level: Charlie Collins. "My preparation with [Collins], before the season started, is what got me to Pro Bowls," said Johnson. "Getting back with him has me mentally prepared to be the same again."
That "same again" may be interpreted two different ways. Either Johnson will be the same as with the Pats or the same as when he was with the Cincinnati Bengals. Johnson seems to think it will be the latter.
“My normal ways, when I was at my best, when I got fined, look at the production those years," Johnson requested. "Usually things don’t go right when you try to change the way you do things. I’m back to normal."
Johnson requested, and we complied.
We took a look at Johnson's numbers before his time with the Patriots and he's right. Every year that he played all 16 games, he was well over 1,000 yards receiving. And during those years Johnson was one of the most heavily fined players in the NFL, including fines for orange chin-straps and gold shoes.
But do bright accessories and animated celebrations really convert to better performance? Of course not. But do those things affect Johnson and his mind-state? Yes. After all, this game is as much mental as it is physical. And Johnson makes it clear that stifling his flamboyant side affects his mentality.
“One of the things I like about being here, that’s so refreshing, and is such a weight off my back, is I can be me, whatever that entails," Johnson stated. "When I can be me, I am loose. Everything just flows for me. Whether it’s the style of play, the way I learn.”
There's no question that Johnson was silenced last year. He didn't have any exchanges with Goodell, or even make it into Goodell's office.
“My personality was controlled last year," Johnson said. "You didn’t hear me at all last year. Zero. Zilch."
The man who once included a poncho and sombrero in a touchdown celebration won't be controlled this year. And with his reins being removed, look for Johnson to get back to his typical high level of play. Like Johnson says, "[w]hen my mouth is running, it forces me to perform."
And with Johnson's solid work ethic and knowledge of the game, we have no doubt that he will perform. And perform well. Far too often, a player's worth is measured by last year's stats. Johnson's case is no different.
There's no question that Johnson had a miserable year statistically. But what's worse is that he had a miserable year mentally. Mentally, all signs point to Johnson being back to 100%. Even his wife agrees. Her proof? She caught him singing in the car.
“He’s happy," Evelyn Lozada said. "Yesterday he was in his car, singing, ‘I can’t wait.’ He’s beyond excited.”
Perhaps a better song for Johnson is Eminem's verse: "...the new me's back to the old me, and homie I don't show no signs of slowing..." Either way, the guy in the No. 85 jersey in Miami will come out strong.
And even at 34, Johnson won't show signs of aging in Miami. Again, that's because of his solid work ethic.
"I take care of my body," Johnson said. "Don’t drink. Don’t do drugs. Training ridiculous. Gym rat."
With his head right and body in shape, Miami fans can expect to see the "Old-Johnson." Not age-wise, but performance-wise. And get ready to learn his touchdown celebration, because apparently, you have a role to play too. Just be ready to get fined by Goodell for your part.