After the debacle of the 2008 season ended, the Cincinnati Bengals began shifting their focus of who they wanted on their team. The team's brain trust began tapping the free agency wire for once-talented players who were deemed either too old or too troubled to be counted on for contributions. Sometimes it was both. They have been using the same mantra for their turnaround once again since 2011, but they have shied away from those with rap sheets.
One of the few bright spots of that 2008 season was a solid showing from the defensive unit--the first under Mike Zimmer. With his unit performing better than most other previous defensive units under Marvin Lewis, Zimmer gained more clout with personnel decisions and began looking towards players that he was familiar with in his previous stints with Dallas and Atlanta. Defensive lineman Terry "Tank" Johnson was one of those names on Zimmer's list, though their time with the Cowboys didn't necessarily coincide.
Johnson was a force on a Chicago Bears defense that led the team to a Super Bowl in the 2006 season. Shortly before and after that big game for the Bears, things began to fall apart for Johnson off of the field. He was caught with firearms both in his car and at his home, along with another resisting arrest situation while on parole. Most of the lesser charges were dropped, but he was sentenced to 12 days in jail and a $2,500 fine. Another issue compounded Johnson's time behind bars and it totaled four months.
After these issues, NFL Commissioner dropped the hammer and suspended Johnson for half of the 2007 season. The Bears had enough and waived Johnson a few weeks later. Dallas picked him up and played one and a half seasons for "America's Team". He was a free agent in 2009 and latched on with the Bengals for the final two years of his career.
After Johnson's slew of legal run-ins, he calmed his life down from the latter half of 2007 on. Goodell reached out to Johnson, now going by "Terry" instead of "Tank", to speak at the rookie symposium this week. Some of the goals that Goodell has in the symposium is to warn the incoming class of potential pitfalls with a quick influx of a lot of money. Johnson, per Pro Football Talk, is attempting to give his insight to the talented young crop.
“I can pick up the phone and speak to him (Goodell) at any time, whenever I need to, about anything,’’ Johnson told David Steele of The Sporting News. “We’ve had a close relationship since 2006.”
"I talked to him (Goodell) personally,’’ Johnson said. "I can reach out and talk to him. He wants to see you successful, and he wants to see you through it. All the guys, he wants them all to be able to do that. He doesn’t just discipline you and kick you out the door. He wants you to succeed, and he make the resources available for you to do that—including himself."
For a team that had a reputation for so many years as a safe haven for problem children, it's great to see former Bengals like Johnson participating in a positive and productive activity like this. And, for the most part, these formerly-troubled reclamation free agent projects have not only worked out well on the field, but they haven't had many problems off of it for Cincinnati.