The League

Sean McCann
Beat Writer

Sean McCann

Former Philadelphia Eagles beat writer for Gannett

LJ risk too high

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When I first puzzled out this question, I was completely ready to give the Bengals the benefit of the doubt.

"The good news is that (Chris) Henry is probably the only bona fide bad dude on the team," I wrote, less than 24 hours ago. "The rest are just garden-variety, fast-living miscreants, with the clean-living egomaniac Chad Ochocinco thrown in for good measure."
Make that two bad dudes.

By courting and signing ex-Chief Larry Johnson, Cincinnati went and made fools of those who have forgiven them. It's one thing to accept your own fallen angels back into the fold, and quite another to round up the rest of the league's shady characters.

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis claims that this move is unrelated to starter Cedric Benson's hip injury, and that Johnson's role will be that of a deep reserve. I would have more sympathy if they wanted him to start.

Lewis' assertion makes it seem like Johnson is a reclamation project, akin to Michael Vick in Philadelphia. Except that the Eagles have -- by NFL standards -- a sterling record on character players. Folks around the league already speak about the Bengals like some sort of halfway house, and though Johnson's ouster from Kansas City stemmed from legal -- albeit asinine -- comments, his landing in Cincinnati reinforces that perception.

The Bengals are in no position to be rehabilitating anybody's image. What I can't figure out is why this team would take this risk at this moment, when it has so much to lose. All the goodwill created by the rise from a four-win 2008 season could be wiped away.

At 7-2, the Bengals have what is effectively a two game lead in the AFC North, and one of the NFL's easiest finishing schedules. If they lose now, they will have brought it on themselves, whether or not Larry Johnson is to blame.

By Sean McCann  |  November 17, 2009; 3:52 PM ET  | Category:  Cincinnati Bengals , Kansas City Chiefs Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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