Smoot, Johnson renew rivalry

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Associated Press

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - There are times when it seems an outbreak of laryngitis is the only way to get Minnesota cornerback Fred Smoot to stop talking.

Well, Freddy is really ready to shine this week - both in pass coverage and in, uh, friendly conversation. Cincinnati's on the schedule, and never-shy receiver Chad Johnson is the assignment.

Email newsletter signup

''He's waiting to see what I'm going to say,'' Smoot said, smiling at a group of reporters. ''We do this. It's going to be a verbal matchup, just like it's going to be a physical matchup.''

Johnson, who has been fined several times for touchdown celebrations and frustrated his coaches by guaranteeing victories, once infamously sent bottles of Pepto-Bismol to Cleveland defensive backs the week of a game with notes predicting they'd get sick trying to cover him.

Smoot's former teammates in Washington named an award after him in training camp, the ''Fred 'Silky Johnson' Smoot Award'' - also known as the ''You're Nothin' Award.'' During his four seasons with the Redskins, Smoot used to good-naturedly say, ''You're nothin''' when someone made a big play.

So Johnson got this matchup of the mouths started Monday in the Bengals' locker room, when he stared at the TV cameras and said, ''That's the message for this week: Smoot, let's go.''

Then Smoot - referring to the Monday night fight that got Philadelphia's Jeremiah Trotter and Atlanta's Kevin Mathis kicked out of their game during warmups this week - suggested Wednesday that he and Johnson would have plenty of words for each other on the field this weekend.

''We might get ejected before the game,'' Smoot said, laughing.

This rivalry dates to the 2001 Senior Bowl, when Johnson (Oregon State) suited up for the North team and Smoot (Mississippi State) lined up across from him. Smoot proudly pointed out he was named Defensive MVP for the South squad in that game.

''Really, it's a mutual respect right there,'' Smoot said.

Johnson, who has been told several times by coach Marvin Lewis to tone it down, declined to be specific about something special he's planning for Cincinnati's home opener.

''This is the year of entertainment,'' Johnson said. ''I no longer play football. Most of all, we've got to get a win and make it as exciting as possible.''

Smoot vowed not to let Johnson - a two-time Pro Bowl pick who has led the AFC in yards receiving two years running - get loose.

''Oh, I'm following him,'' he said. ''Everywhere he goes. Inside, outside, in the backfield, I got him.''

Lewis coached Smoot for one season as Washington's defensive coordinator in 2002.

''If you put them in this room,'' Lewis said, ''you couldn't tell them apart because they're both the same. They both feel very good about themselves, and they're talented. … They're both a lot of fun.''

After all, football IS supposed to be fun, right?

''I like that, man,'' Smoot said. ''That's my job. I love to have fun. And I like to yap, so why not?''