New Bengals move in near Chad Johnson's space Print
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Friday, 02 May 2008 11:29
NFL Headline News

 CINCINNATI (AP) -Rookie receiver Jerome Simpson walked into the Cincinnati Bengals' football-shaped locker room and started reading the name cards. Didn't take him long to find Chad Johnson's.
``That was the first thing that I did,'' Simpson said Friday, after his first rookie minicamp workout. ``I went over there and looked at Chad's locker.''
What he saw:
-A small No. 85 Christmas ornament hanging from a metal hook on the wood-veneer side panel.
-Eleven pairs of cleats and some clogs crammed into a small storage space near the floor.
-Various skin lotions stored haphazardly in a nook.
-A full rack of shirts and other apparel.
To a second-round draft pick from Coastal Carolina, it was akin to a shrine. Next to it was T.J. Houshmandzadeh's locker, with much the same accouterments - no Christmas ornament, though.
Deeply impressed, Simpson wandered over to his own locker - a temporary metal one along rookie row in the middle of the room - and made himself a promise.
``Coming up soon, one of those is going to be my locker,'' he said. ``I'm going to come in here and work hard so I can have one of those lockers.''
He'll have one, all right. Might have a position to go with it, too.
The Bengals showed they were serious about overhauling their receiving corps when they took Simpson with the 46th overall pick. Then, in the third round, they got receiver Andre Caldwell from Florida.
Finally, they completed their 10-player draft by taking receiver Mario Urrutia in the seventh round from Louisville. That's an infusion of three players into a receiving corps that's now in transition.
No. 3 receiver Chris Henry is gone, released last month after his fifth arrest. Johnson is threatening to hold out because the Bengals won't trade him. And Houshmandzadeh is entering the final year on his contract.
``Got to reload,'' said quarterback Carson Palmer, who stood on the sideline and watched the rookies catch passes from his brother, Jordan. ``Chad and T.J. are both getting older, and it's part of the deal. When a certain position gets older, you've got to restock for the years to come.
``I don't think it's anything more than that. People talk about Chad and all the other stuff going on, but it's just restocking a position, just like every other team does.''
They're restocking to try to resolve a problem.
If Johnson goes ahead with his threat to sit out, a starting job will open up. That's even more reason for Palmer to take interest in the newcomers - one of them might be catching a lot of his passes this season.
``I saw him on the side watching us practice,'' Caldwell said. ``I think that means a lot. He doesn't have to be out there, on his spare time, coming to watch us, to see who his target's going to be, hopefully. I'm very excited.''
Palmer has done his homework.
Before the draft, he watched tape of the top receivers available. He liked Kansas State's Jordy Nelson - Green Bay took him 10 picks ahead of the Bengals in the second round. He also liked what Cincinnati got.
Simpson?
``I'd seen a lot of film on him and was excited when I saw that we got him,'' Palmer said. ``His highlight film and his game film was unreal.''
What about Caldwell?
``I think we kind of lucked out because of the knock that Florida receivers get, the 'system' label they put on them,'' Palmer said. ``He's fast, a team captain, a leader. Those are the type of guys you love getting at receiver.''
Caldwell has 18 tattoos spread over his body. About eight months ago, he got one across the top of his chest that says, ``Born To Fly'' with a set of wings on each side.
``I was just born to exceed expectations,'' he explained. ``The sky's the limit for me.''
Depending on how Johnson's impasse plays out, one of them could eventually take his job.
For now, they'll take a locker just like his.
 

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