Could a 36-year-old Chad Johnson – previously and famously known as Chad Ochocinco – help the B.C. Lions on the football field? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
But unless there’s an unprecedented overnight shift in philosophy from the local Canadian Football League team, we’ll never know, one way or the other.
Johnson, who ascended to football stardom with the Cincinnati Bengals, created a stir on Thursday, when, responding to a question on Twitter about where he’ll sign this off-season, his reply was the B.C. Lions. Rub your eyes, give your head a shake, or two. But it happened.
Old news by now really, although it heightened curiosity – a six-time Pro Bowl receiver with 1,000 yards or more receiving in seven seasons, including six consecutively, says in a very public forum that the team he’d sign with is the B.C. Lions of the CFL.
For the Lions, the problem is not necessarily that Johnson has been out of football for an extended period of time – his last NFL season 2011 with the New England Patriots – although it would certainly be a concern given his age.
It’s far more than that.
According to Washington Post, in 2012, after allegedly head-butting his then-wife Evelyn Lozada during an argument, Johnson pleaded no contest to misdemeanour domestic battery charges, avoiding jail time.
Last May, he was arrested for breach of probation.
And this is why, following last week’s bizarre occurrence that included Johnson tweeting at players, including quarterback Travis Lulay, the Lions simply aren’t willing to make an investment.
“I felt I would disrespect the individual if I didn’t even sit down and talk about it,” said Lions general manager Wally Buono in a phone interview, adding he did not talk with Johnson or his representatives.
“But when you start measuring all the obstacles and you start to evaluate as an organization what you’ve supported, what you stand for and what you have expounded on, it just doesn’t even come close to working.”
Even if Buono and the Lions were to look the other way on such transgressions, signing Johnson would be adding a perhaps overwhelming personality onto a team that, by and large, has maintained a number of core players and its leadership group.
There have been big changes in this department, with the trading of Geroy Simon and Korey Banks, and the retirement of Angus Reid.
And is it worth potentially upsetting the relationships that continues to exist and mature between Lulay and his receivers and running backs by signing Johnson?
“What I don’t think you can overcome is one: He’s 36 years old. Two: The profile is so, so high that even if there wasn’t other issues that are conflicting or other issues that are not consistent with the B.C. Lions, it’s an uphill battle I’m not sure how you would win,” said Buono.
And that goes for marketing, too. A few extra bums in the seats, or T-shirt sales isn’t worth it for the Lions.
“I’m not sure that’s a fair process to your season-ticket holders or your long-time fans,” said Buono.
“Then you’re creating a hype and an excitement that’s really not valid.”
Suppose Johnson were to show up at one of the six free agent tryouts the Lions have scheduled in the U.S. through April and May? Suppose his time in the 40-Yard run was exceptional, and he brought all the tools the Lions covet in a receiver?
“Again, I think you would be hypocritical if you were to compromise everything just for the sake of having a fast receiver or a good receiver,” said Buono.
“I think you have to always weigh everything and sometimes you have to pass on an athlete because of the fact the investment is not worth all the issues.
“There’s no way around it. We don’t want to go around it. It’s not like we want to go around it. We don’t want to go around it.”