Ocho Cinco, Andre Johnson keep friendship alive

October 22, 2008 5:55:20 PM PDT
One is the spotlight-seeking, trash-talking star of the Cincinnati Bengals. The other is the mild-mannered, soft-spoken leader of the Houston Texans. Both are Pro Bowl receivers on losing teams, live in Miami and have "Johnson" on the backs of their jerseys. But that's where the similarities end with the Bengals' Chad and the Texans' Andre, who will share the field Sunday when Cincinnati (0-7) visits Houston (2-4).

Technically, they don't even share a last name anymore, since Chad legally changed his to "Ocho Cinco" in August. The NFL is still making Chad wear "Johnson" on his uniform for now.

The Texans' Johnson would never crave that kind of controversy.

"I am not a guy who likes to be around a lot of commotion," he said.

But the two have been friends for almost a decade through their Miami connection, proof that opposites attract. They work out together in the offseason and have many common acquaintances.

Ocho Cinco said he was going to call Johnson when he arrived in Houston and try to get a free meal out of him. He also said he was going to tell Johnson to relay some brash warnings to Houston's defensive backs.

So typical.

"Every time I play against him, he's always saying something crazy," Johnson said.

But for the most part, the Bengals' wretched start has put a muzzle on Ocho Cinco. He isn't having a great individual season, either, with only 27 catches for 268 yards.

Ocho Cinco said he's tried to tone down his act for the good of the team. So far, it hasn't helped much.

"It's very difficult," he said. "I'm very boisterous, I'm very flashy, flamboyant. I love to pose challenges to opponents. I'm always saying something out of the ordinary, to get myself motivated to play.

"But I have no room for it. I have no room to get myself going. I'm approaching every game quietly, and doing it in a way that I've never done it before. It doesn't seem to be going the way it should -- not just for me, but for us as a whole."

The low-key method has always worked for Johnson, a two-time Pro Bowler who leads the AFC with 629 receiving yards and the NFL with 104.8 receiving yards per game.

"He's a Johnson," Ocho Cinco said. "What do you expect?"

Unlike Ocho Cinco, Johnson will probably never unleash an outlandish dance in the end zone after a touchdown or call out an opposing cornerback leading up to a game. About the closest thing Johnson did to cause a stir this year was reveal how frustrated he was after Houston's 0-4 start.

"I've never been a person that complains," he said. "If I wasn't able to touch a ball for the rest of the season, I'm not going to go to Kube's (Coach Gary Kubiak) office and complain to him or nothing. If the ball comes my way, it comes; if it don't, it don't."

That's probably not how Ocho Cinco would've handled the same situation in seasons past.

He unsuccessfully lobbied for a trade this offseason and threatened to sit out if he didn't get his way. He also skipped voluntary workouts and missed most of training camp with ankle and shoulder problems, while the Bengals stood their ground and refused to release him.

Since the season started, Ocho Cinco has been on his best behavior -- acting more like Johnson always does.

"I haven't complained about the opportunities that have come my way. If the opportunities come, I just make the plays," Ocho Cinco said. "I'm trying to do everything I can to get us out of this funk right now. I've been as positive as possible, with the situation that we're in, despite what I said in the offseason."

Right now, Johnson can relate to what Ocho Cinco is going through better than anyone.

The Texans have been one of the worst teams since entering the league in 2002, and Johnson has endured all but the first season. Houston was 0-6 in 2005 on its way to a 2-14 season.

"I'm pretty sure it's really frustrating for him," Johnson said. "It's a rough time for him. He's probably not even thinking about some of the things he used to think about. He's probably just trying to figure out how he can get his team to win games."

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