Johnson guarantees Bengals to deal Chiefs first loss of year

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 11, 2003

CINCINNATI - The Chiefs are laughing, right?

For the first time this season, brash Bengals receiver Chad Johnson has put his teammates on the spot by guaranteeing a victory - over the NFL's only undefeated team, no less.

The Bengals (4-5) are counting on Kansas City to take it the right way.

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''They'll probably get a few laughs out of it and just come in and try to play their game,'' linebacker Kevin Hardy said Monday.

They certainly have incentive to play one of their best games.

Johnson violated protocol by giving the Chiefs (9-0) reason to feel slighted. As soon as the Bengals finished a 34-27 victory over Houston, he repeatedly guaranteed that the Chiefs will get their first loss of the season next Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.

The Chiefs have noticed, though they don't plan to fire back.

''We don't need to inspire our opponents any more than they need to be inspired,'' Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil said Monday. ''We try to make very rational, classy statements and always reflect positively on our opponents.''

That's how most coaches prefer it. That's also why some of Johnson's teammates were wondering why he did it.

Why stir up a team that has yet to lose a game?

''Well, he's just excited,'' Hardy said. ''Obviously he hasn't been in this situation a lot in his NFL career, and he let his emotions probably get the best of him.''

Actually, it was calculated.

Twice last season, Johnson made waves by guaranteeing wins. His first prediction game true - a 38-3 win over Houston - but the Bengals lost to the Browns in the other game.

He has toned down the rhetoric under coach Marvin Lewis, who doesn't approve of trash talking. Johnson warned him last week that he was in the mood to stir things up again.

''He guaranteed me last week that he was going to do that,'' Lewis said Monday. ''I just told him about what goes along with that - responsibilities.''

The Bengals are aware that if they back up Johnson's boast, they'll get some of the national attention they've craved. The NFL's worst team since 1991 hasn't had many opportunities to grab the spotlight for anything other than losing.

''It's going to be a great opportunity,'' offensive guard Eric Steinbach said Monday. ''It's exciting to have Kansas City in here. It would be great to knock them off and be the team that beats the Chiefs, who were 9-0 and having a great season.''

A win also would bring the Bengals a long-awaited measure of respect. At 5-5, they'd have their best 10-game mark since 1990, the last time they had a winning record and made the playoffs.

The question is whether Johnson's guarantee will focus the Chiefs' attention on a game they might otherwise take lightly. The teams haven't played in 10 years, leaving no room for rivalry or bitter feelings - until Johnson spoke up.

''They probably don't take us seriously,'' Hardy said. ''When they looked at their schedule, as they're probably looking at it right now, they're looking past us.''

Maybe. Or maybe the guarantee will get their attention.

''When I was at the Rams and we played Cleveland in Cleveland, somebody said they were going to come in there and beat us,'' Vermeil said. ''I don't know what the score was, but it wasn't close.''