Is Chad actually unifying the Bengals -- by accident?

I drove home from Dayton this evening, over 30 miles south on I-75 from my severely under-paying real-time gig, and it hit me: I hadn't thought or spoken about Chad Johnson for three full hours. It was nice, to be honest. Still, I felt like I should think or say something, you know? I haven't expressed much opinion about Chad, other than my lovable nicknames and mentioning reports that writers write first hand.

But if you're a fan of the Cincinnati Bengals, ignoring the issue is not likely. Why? It's right there, confusing to a point, almost hysterical. It's the biggest issue within the team; the players and coaches are talking about (and hating it, by the way). The media is only talking about Chad while 80+ other players are doing their best to impress coaches and teammates by working hard, doing their part to make this team better. Team, Chad. I said team.

It's insulting, frustrating; but at the same time, with all the attention on Chad, this is the first time that I've felt that the Bengals are truly becoming a team. The lockerroom is reacting against Chad's "selfishness" that Marvin Lewis and Carson Palmer have indirectly attributed to "someone" (we know who, don't we?). Seriously. Re-read what Palmer says, or what Willie Anderson mocks, and smile at Marvin Lewis' comments that Johnson not practicing is actually a benefit.

"Anyway, he's here and went through the meetings and those things, but obviously didn't take any reps, which is kind of good, because it allows us to continue to move forward. The young guys need the work; it's good work for them and good opportunity to keep going.

Sure, by definition, Chad is a distraction; the entire ESPN football crew, the New York Times and Yahoo! lead sports writer proves that. At the same time, Chad, in an indirect way, has brought this team together, save for good pal T.J. Houshmandzadeh; but speaking fairly, he's not a problem.

Someone is lying. Yeap. Someone. I won't, by default slam the team or the front office just to do so. No. Marvin Lewis is notorious for keeping information close to his chest, often leaving us to assume mostly everything. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt based on the situation (I figured you wanted to know something about me). Chad Johnson and his mentor, Oil Slick, are confusing the lying nature of the injury that Chad supposedly has. Ankle? Back? Both? Will Chad sit out because he needs to have surgery that he didn't address over the off-season. The team's physicians says he's fine, cleared him for work; basically ignoring Chad's little whinny boo-boo. It's football, dude.

So what is it? Injury? Contract? Pouting? Who the hell knows, but it's hardly something to ignore. You can't. It's right there, in your face. And the best part is that players are gelling together, ironically, because of Chad's eventual divisiveness. I love the Bengals man, seriously.

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