June 12, 2014

Moffat: Ocho’s influence on Als larger than life

Rogerio Barbosa/Montreal Alouettes

Long before Chad Johnson and a certain Saskatchewan Roughrider safety launched into a Twitter sparring match this week, many of Johnson’s Alouettes teammates were already well aware of the “Ocho-Effect” and had their favorite “Ocho Moments” picked out.

“Growing up Chad Johnson was one of the guys you wanted to be,” admitted second-year Alouette receiver Duron Carter.  

“He was out there talking trash, scoring touchdowns, doing the dance.  I always looked up to ‘Ocho’.”

Please, no Ochocinco (though it remains his twitter handle).  

Don’t even think about “Huit-cinq” or “quatre-vingt cinq”.  He’s Chad Johnson again, and he’s hoping that his return to his roots will bring him back to the heyday of some of his finest NFL seasons.

“I always looked up to Ocho, and just having a chance to be on his team and get advice from him in football and in life is amazing,” gushed Carter.

Carter was only 12 when Johnson was at his exhibitionist best in Cincinnati.  

“It was the sign…the ‘please don’t fine me’ sign that he eventually got fined for,” chuckled Carter.

Johnson went on record back in 2003 after being repeatedly fined by the NFL as saying “It’s fun.  It’s part of the game. They can’t take that away from us. I’ve got to continue to do what I do. That’s just Chad.”

Carter, the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Cris Carter, relishes the endzone celebrations promised by what Jim Popp tells me has all the potential of being the most skilled receiving corps he’s ever assembled.

But Carter has an ulterior motive.

“I want a lot of touchdown celebrations, as much fun as possible this year.”

SJ Green, meanwhile, will be looking towards Johnson to help sear away any memory of last season.

“Last year was abysmal but this is a new year,” the veteran says in spite of a personal best 13 touchdowns and 80+ catches for the second time in three years.

Johnson, the Bengals’ all-time leading receiver, says he wants to be a sponge for the route-running knowledge of the likes of Green, who is heading into his eighth CFL campaign.

“It shows me he respects our game and the players who are here. He wants to be a sponge so he can be as dominant as we know that he can. For him to want to soak up that knowledge and learn as much as he can…that takes him a long way with us,” said Green.

“We both grew up in the state of Florida and he was one of my favorite receivers growing up. I followed him and have known a lot about him since college but my favorite ‘Ocho-moment’ was probably the Hall of Fame jacket.”

It was only seven years ago.  Green was a CFL newbie looking for his first Canadian TD.  Johnson scored in the Bengals’ season opener and pulled on a gold jacket with crude lettering on the back that read: ‘Future H.O.F.’

“I feel he should be there one day,” suggested Green.  

“It’s an honour to play with somebody who has done what he’s done, the type of player he is and has become.  So I’m looking to be a sponge to him and learn from him, try to figure out some of the things he’s used to make himself successful and integrate some of that into my game.”

Alouettes running back Tyrell Sutton says it’s humbling to see Johnson try and become a successful CFL player.

 “He wants to end his career on a high note and I don’t think he could have picked a better organization to be around for that to happen.”

“He deserves a second chance,” says the multi-purpose back who did a solid Brandon Whitaker imitation very nearly carrying the Als into the Tiger-Cats’ endzone late in last November’s Eastern Semi-Final.

QB Troy Smith is the man charged with getting Chad Johnson the ball, and ensuring that there are enough passing plays to keep his talented group of pass catchers happy.

“I’m just happy to be a part of this special brand of football and very very very excited to be throwing the football to him,” Smith told me on the eve of his own first CFL training camp.

“I had always been a Chad Johnson fan. With all the weapons we have, I am more excited about having an incredible offensive line because it all starts with them.”

The 19th season as GM for Jim Popp may not be “all about the Chad”, but it has raised the bar.

“What I like about having Chad Johnson is raising the game of not just the receivers, because they want to compete against the best.  Everybody wants to prove how good they can be and we’ll have that every day in practice.”