During Sunday's win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, starting running back Cedric Benson suffered a hip flexor strain in the second quarter. His last rushing attempt came with 4:02 left in the first half, finishing with seven rushing attempts for 22 yards rushing. Later that night, Benson told Adam Schefter that he should be alright and play against the Oakland Raiders next Sunday.
However, the team might not be convinced. Rather than forcing Benson to play with an injury, the Bengals reportedly will sign Larry Johnson on Monday. Adam Schefter tweets:
ESPN's Michael Smith reporting that Larry Johnson is en route to Cincinnati, and barring a breakdown, is expected to sign with Bengals.
The move doesn't come as much of a surprise. The Bengals are known for signing players on the cheap, especially proven players who are finding themselves begging for a second chance. Johnson had a tremendous two-year stretch between 2005 and 2006, recording 4,292 yards from scrimmage and 40 touchdowns. Between 2007 and 2008, Johnson played in 20 of a possible 32 games and his 2.9 yards-per-rush average in 2009 is a career low.
Johnson, released by the Kansas City Chiefs a week ago, has been characterized as having anger issues.
“I think it’s more perception than it was reality,” Johnson said. “I wasn’t upset. If anybody likes losing, they shouldn’t be playing this game, or any game. It just left a bad taste in my mouth every game we were losing … you just felt like you were useless. You felt like you weren’t doing enough for the team to put them in a position to win. If I was frustrated and upset, it was mainly for myself.”
The obvious question now, if Johnson does sign, is what happens with the Bengals roster of running backs. One can't expect that the team will waive Bernard Scott, after his 260 yards total against the Steelers or Brian Leonard, who's conversions on third and fourth down were very critical. Who on the roster gets the axe? And much more pressing is how serious is Benson's injury?
Questions, question, questions.
UPDATE: Here's Michael Smith's original article that Adam Schefter tweeted earlier. In this article, Smith writes that the Bengals were interested before Benson's injury on Sunday. Smith also chronicles Johnson's "issues".
In 2008, then-coach Herm Edwards benched him for three straight games for violating team rules and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him a fourth game for violating the league's player conduct policy.
Johnson was later sentenced to two years' probation after pleading guilty to two counts of disturbing the peace. One woman accused him of throwing a drink on her and another said he had pushed her head at a Kansas City night spot.
UPDATE: More on Larry Johnson's troubles -- a refresher course of sorts. Before being released by the Chiefs, Kansas City fans started an online petition asking Chiefs general manager "Scott Pioli to deactivate Johnson and keep him on the sideline so he cannot pass Priest Holmes for the team rushing record, or join the team's Ring of Honor at Arrowhead Stadium."
"While we are thankful for his service, we feel that Larry has been a black eye on the organization and has no business being mentioned" among the team's all-time greats, the petition reads.
Johnson was initially suspended "without pay through Nov. 8 after he questioned coach Todd Haley's qualifications on his Twitter account and twice used a homosexual slur. On Monday, the team reached a settlement with Johnson, reducing the amount of pay he would lose in half, to $315,000."
UPDATE: Suggesting discretion first. We have to advise you not to read anything into this until the actual signing happens. We've been burnt by this before, so discretion is good advice here. Ironically enough, Chad, promoting the OCNN, advises the same thing.
OCNN BREAKING NEWS: Larry Johnson hasn't signed with the Bengals, when and if it does happen ill tweet the ROC is n building
UPDATE: A Pragmatic Bengals Fan weighs in.
Part of me is concerned about bringing a negative guy like Johnson on board, I won't claim otherwise. I think part of the reason Cedric Benson is so different for our Bengals than he was for the Bears is that he sat at home for such a long period of time. He had to admit to himself that the league could go on without him, and I don't know that a couple of weeks of inactivity will have carried the same message to Larry Johnson. Chemistry in a locker room and on the field of play can be a very delicate formula, and our Bengals have better chemistry now than I remember them ever having as a team.
That said, not too long ago Larry Johnson was an exceedingly talented running back. A friend of mine said in a message board discussion about this topic last night that film of LJ in 2006 should be required viewing for every aspiring running back at the Combine. The guy had absolutely no fear hitting the hole and was able to turn a crease into long gainers with alarming regularity. He ate linebackers for lunch, and would run through you or around you. It didn't matter to him, he was just getting the yardage he wanted.
So I'm torn.
I think for me personally, I'm not entirely opposed to this move for a couple of reasons. Larry Johnson is a very similar runner to the Cincinnati version of Cedric Benson, the Cedric Benson who was a world-beater at Texas. Bernard Scott and Brian Leonard are not that guy. Perhaps in the spirit of "If it ain't broke don't fix it" mentality, LJ would be a good addition until Cedric Benson is right and ready for a playoff run. That said, I liked what I saw out of Bernard Scott yesterday and I was hoping he would have a good chance to keep developing and growing over the next two or three weeks before hopefully getting Benson back for the last four weeks of the season and a playoff push.
If I had anything to say about it, I would absolutely make sure that Marvin Lewis got to Larry Johnson in the negotiating room and let him know exactly why he was here. Let him know exactly what they want from him, and let him know his place with this team. Marvin has been exceptional at getting the guys to realize that many of them weren't wanted elsewhere and that this was a home for them if they played to their ability, and I would give him that shot before any documents are signed today.
Just please heed these words, Bengals. Talk to Larry Johnson long and hard before anything is signed.
Also, talk to Cedric Benson and let him know why Larry Johnson is here.
UPDATE: Remembering Cedric Benson's signing. There's a certain parallel that the reported soon-to-be Bengals running back Larry Johnson has with Cedric Benson's signing last year. Both players came with tons of baggage and both were released from their respective teams because of certain issues that plagued their character. Furthermore, there were reports of each player being a lockerroom distraction with their former team. However, that's where the parallel ends. With Benson, the Bengals were desperate for a rushing offense -- not, they were just desperate. And Benson's case has turned out to be the best possible scenario. No, better than that. With Johnson, the Bengals are far less desperate and have all praised the great lockerroom chemistry that's lead by a group of mature players.
But what was the feeling of the Benson signing when he was signed? We ran a poll when Benson signed and 59% liked the move, largely because the Bengals really had nothing to lose. The majority of comments were split.
UPDATE: Larry Johnson is confirmed for a visit, but no signing. Joe Reedy tweets that "Lewis says Johnson will visit. Marvin had a conversation with him last Thursday. Would be here as an insurance policy" Bengals.com tweets that "Lewis says it has no affect on benson scott or leonard and that if do sign him he d be inactive"
UPDATE: We have to emphasize that Johnson has NOT signed. No reports actually made that claim. The closest we came to an actual signing happening, is Adam Schefter's original tweet that says "ESPN's Michael Smith reporting that Larry Johnson is en route to Cincinnati, and barring a breakdown, is expected to sign with Bengals."
We're presuming that the visit will lead to a signing, provided Johnson impresses Lewis and owner Mike Brown enough to sign him -- which likely includes, at the very least, a physical and interview.
UPDATE: If Johnson signs, what of Cedric Benson? There's no reason in the world, not even with 2012 approaching, to believe that Benson's overall participation would be reduced. And if it was, there'd be an outrage. And I'd be front and center on that. However, that concern is completely unwarranted. Bengals tweet today that Marvin Lewis said he spoke with Benson and "assured him his role won't change."
UPDATE: Jake weighs in.
What. The. Hell? I mean, we've had a great character team this year, and this is the signing we make? I understand that Cedric Benson is hurt, but Larry Johnson simply has no longer been a successful back in the NFL. He's averaged under 3 yards per carry. I know the Chiefs are bad, but does this move really make sense? Only if he's humbled by his recent experience and shows a dedication to winning. I don't like this move, but I guess it's OK if Johnson is signing for the league minimum, with no incentives. He's had a good career, and if he can resurrect that talent in Cincinnati, we'll have quite the 2(4)-headed monster. Where does this leave Scott and 3rd-down-assassin Leonard?
UPDATE: Chris weighs in. "I don't think I've been this opposed to something. Ever." It's unknown if Chris' love for Infinity Ward has been replaced.
UPDATE: Bernard Scott is cautious about Johnson joining Cincinnati. "I think it'd be fine," Scott said. "We're winning, we're happy. Personally, I don't know him, so I don't want to say anything."
UPDATE: Bengals reportedly have decided to sign Johnson. Are working on a deal. Per Jay Glazer.