A few weeks back, the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes turned heads when it was announced that they would invite former NFL All-Pro wide receiver Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson for a tryout during spring mini-camp in Florida.
The Oregon State Beavers alumnus wowed Alouettes scouts in his Tuesday workout session, making sharp cuts to rid himself of defenders and hauling in passes just short of midfield. It seemed to have worked. Earlier today, general manager Jim Popp inked Johnson to a contract.
Johnson, who spent over a decade playing football stateside with the Cincinnati Bengals and the New England Patriots, was signed to the Miami Dolphins’ practice squad during the 2012 NFL preseason. His US career was derailed after he was charged with misdemeanor domestic battery on his girlfriend.
Earlier in the week, Johnson met with reporters at Alouettes’ mini-camp in Vero Beach, and he admits that because of his negative rapport with the League, the doors are likely now closed to an NFL return.
“It was a horrible mistake,” Johnson said. “A dream of mine since I was 4 years old was taken from me, rightfully so, by my wrongdoings.”
Johnson is happy to be playing football anywhere at this point.
“I just want to get back to doing something that I love to do, regardless of where it is,” he said. “[Whether it's] Montreal, flag football, back in the street the way I grew up, I just want to play football.”
The receiver utilized his Twitter account to reach out to the Als, and Popp quieted the rumors of a publicity stunt by Johnson and his camp. Here’s what he had to say:
“It’s all business. It’s real. He’s in great shape. He wants to play and we’ll see how things are. None of you would know it was here unless it got tweeted out. ”
This is what Popp said of the decision to sign Johnson.
“Chad Johnson did an outstanding job the last three days. As we added him into the mix, it was to see how he communicated with the players, how he held himself, the way he physically held up, his true interest in coming to the CFL. It was a total evaluation so that it’s a good fit. He was very happy and very excited to be on the field again and we are happy to welcome him to the Alouettes.”
Chad Johnson is a man who, in the last several years, has done a complete 180 from the kind of guy that he was in Cincinnati. He has engaged in misdeeds, paid the price, and has now learned from them.
At this stage in his career, the 36-year-old Johnson is not looking for a big-money contract like so many athletes of his stature are, but rather just a second chance at playing the game he is passionate about. Football is Chad Johnson’s life.
Having that game taken away from him two years ago was a real wake-up call for him, a call which he answered. Here’s hoping he has a successful run as a member of the Als.
QUICK ADDENDUM: Johnson must still obtain a work permit in order to play in Canada. The Als hope to know whether or not his permit is approved by Thursday, May 1. Montreal’s training camp is set to begin on Sunday, June 1, with its first preseason game on Saturday, June 14.