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Packers' Secondary To Match Up With Talkative Wide Receiver


Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson began his Wednesday conference call with the media by asking for Packers cornerback Al Harris.

"Is Al anywhere in there?" he asked. "Can you guys go get him?"

The Bengals-Packers game may be four days away, but Johnson already has stoked the flames of the matchup. He has Harris posted on his infamous checklist -- which lists the No. 1 cornerback of the team he faces each week -- in his locker. If he outplays that cornerback, he checks him off. Going into Week 7, he has checked off every cornerback this season.

Harris, however, declined to rebut.

"I just try to do the job to the best of my abilities," he said. "I don't get too wrapped up in all of that."

Johnson has become known for trash talking his opponents between plays, but such on-field talk does not distract Harris. The eight-year veteran sometimes can focus so intently on his role that he does not follow what happens on the Packers' offensive series.

"He has tunnel vision," Packers head coach Mike Sherman said.

Second-year veteran Ahmad Carroll, on the other hand, welcomes opponents like Johnson to woof a little bit.

"I like when people trash talk," he said. "I think it makes the game more fun."

Johnson does more than just talk. He has 43 catches for 655 yards and five touchdowns. His skills, particularly his speed, hands and burst, impressed Sherman when he observed him at the Senior Bowl.

"He's a heck of a receiver," Sherman said. "That kid has gotten better every year."

Johnson's flashiness can overshadow his hard work. He studies film diligently, sometimes watching so late at night that he sleeps at the Bengals' facility.

"Anyone who practices as hard and plays as hard as he does is good for your football team," Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said. "He never takes a play off."

Johnson will need that work ethic on Sunday. Johnson, who has watched Harris on film since Tuesday, marvels at his speed and ability to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage. He even called Harris the second best cornerback in football behind Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey.

"He's ridiculously good," Johnson said. "He doesn't get the notoriety he should. I'm going to make sure he gets it this week ... He's the best I'm going to face this year."

Harris, however, may not cover Johnson. Harris routinely shadowed the No. 1 receiver last year, but the defense has mixed and matched more this year. With their off day on Tuesday, the Packers have just started to implement their game plan and have not given any indications on how they will defend Johnson.

Safety Mark Roman, a former Bengal who played with Johnson from 2001 to 2003, said there is no special formula to contain him.

"Don't try to come up with a magical technique or a magical scheme, just go out and play against the guy," he said. "Any guy in here that has to play against Chad, he's welcoming that challenge."

That challenge could include a feature on SportsCenter if scored upon. After scoring touchdowns this year, Johnson has danced a "Lord of the Dance"-like jig and performed CPR on a football.

"We lost him," Johnson said about the post-touchdown celebration. "We had to do a funeral the following day."

Johnson said he has cooked up another celebratory dance if he scores a touchdown against the Packers, but he will not reveal it.

"You guys will have to tune in and stay on the edge of your seats like everyone else," he said.

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