Johnson's throat slash gesture draws coach's wrath

Updated: October 29, 2003, 6:42 PM ET
ESPN

CINCINNATI -- Chad Johnson has been warned to watch the choreography.

The trash-talking receiver who loves entertaining the crowd after a touchdown put the Cincinnati Bengals' biggest comeback of the season at risk with his latest move.

Coach Marvin Lewis castigated him on the sideline Sunday after his throat-slash gesture following a touchdown drew a 15-yard penalty. The Bengals overcame it, holding on for a 27-24 victory over Seattle.

Johnson said Wednesday that he hadn't been fined by the NFL, an indication the league accepted his explanation that it was an innocent mistake. (The NFL won't comment on such fines.)

"They would have done it already," said Johnson, who has a lot of firsthand knowledge of the league's methods for fines. "I'm sure they understand what I meant."

His head coach is less understanding.

Lewis jogged over to Johnson as he returned from the end zone after Sunday's display, and berated him at length. The first-year head coach made it sink in that every action -- even one done in fun -- has consequences.

"That's the significance of what you do," Lewis said. "We are beginning to learn that this is a team game. It's not the Chad Johnson show, it's a team game. He understands and is remorseful."

Remorseful, perhaps, but not ready to become a wallflower.

Johnson is enjoying his emergence as one of the league's top young receivers. His 53-yard touchdown catch Sunday left him with 643 yards and an 18.4-yard average per catch in seven games.

He started getting attention with his catches and his win guarantees last season, when the Bengals finished 2-14. Most of his trash talking is playful rather than malicious -- he even makes fun of himself.

Last week, Johnson suggested there's no pressure on him now that he's become the leader of the Bengals' receiving corps.

"That's just me," he said. "I worked my way from the bottom up. Every week, it's only going to get better. There are three things in life that are certain: death, taxes and not being able to cover me."

He's been fined $20,000 this season for violating the league's uniform regulations -- shirt not tucked in and so forth. He got another $5,000 fine for pretending to take a photograph in the end zone with Peter Warrick to celebrate a touchdown in Cleveland.

On Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium, he scored the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, then headed for the stands. He started to rip off his helmet -- another no-no -- to throw it into the stands, then decided against it.

So he did the throat slash gesture to tell fans he was keeping his helmet on, then jumped into the stands. An angry Lewis was waiting to meet him.

Asked what he would do if he were in Johnson's place, Lewis said, "Act like you've been there before. I don't know, I never scored a touchdown. In high school, you give the ball to the referee. I don't know what I would do."

Johnson knows what he's going to do -- keep celebrating.

"You work hard all week and get in that end zone, and that's what it's all about," he said. "Everybody has their own little thing they do.

"Last year, I was a little more humble with scoring -- just go to the sideline. This year, what's the point of working hard and getting into the end zone and not having a celebration?"

His teammates are with him on that point. Rookie receiver Kelley Washington did a squirmy move -- he calls it "The Squirrel" -- after his first NFL touchdown catch Sunday. Even quarterback Jon Kitna joined in.

"Growing up and going to the games, players always look for what players are going to do not necessarily on the play, but after the play," Washington said. "What Deion Sanders did and what Michael Irvin did -- those guys put a lot of excitement into the game."

Lewis isn't going to outlaw dancing, but he wants his players to watch their steps.

"I want them to be happy and excited and celebrate, but we don't need to do some of the things we've been doing," Lewis said. "We have to get rid of that."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index