Yahoo Sports senior NFL writer Terez Paylor spoke with former NFL All-Pro WR Chad Johnson about his case for the Hall of Fame, how he paved the way for players to promote themselves, and what made him tick while he was playing.
Chad joins Yahoo Sports on behalf of Madden NFL 21’s 'Video Game Numbers Challenge' through which football fans and gamers can now vote for their favorite players to participate in the Pro Bowl.
TEREZ PAYLOR: OK, I'm here with former All-Pro wide receiver Chad Johnson, who's speaking on behalf of Madden. And Chad, I promise you, we'll get to that in a quick minute. But first of all, thanks for joining us, man.
CHAD JOHNSON: No, no problem, no problem. And you said former. Actually, I'm still current, because I haven't retired yet.
TEREZ PAYLOR: Well, you know what, why don't we just start there. You haven't filed those papers? Really?
CHAD JOHNSON: No, no, you just never know. Terez, you never know when that call might come. So I just need to make sure I'm always ready.
TEREZ PAYLOR: Chad, it's got to be tough for you to watch, like, today's era of football, because like, now they're really throwing the ball around, like a lot. What's it like? What do you think you would be doing in today's game if we inserted, what, 26-year-old prime Chad Johnson in today's game?
CHAD JOHNSON: Let me see, put up 14, then we double that, I mean, maybe a 2,000 yard season. You know what we've got to do is catch 122, 100 balls a season, like--
TEREZ PAYLOR: 150.
CHAD JOHNSON: 150, can you imagine?
TEREZ PAYLOR: No.
CHAD JOHNSON: I was able I was able to get 14, 1,200 yards off 89, 90 catches. So imagine 150, with the ability to get open against any and everything, when they could actually hit you, and they could actually hold you. You know, it wouldn't be fair.
TEREZ PAYLOR: Got you, got you. And I just got to ask you, because you say you haven't turned in the papers, like, what are the odds that you would stage the 40-year-old comeback, man? What are the odds you would ever do it?
CHAD JOHNSON: It wouldn't happen. It wouldn't happen. Just the way the business works, and me understanding the business, I just have fun with it from the outside. And I actually enjoy being a fan of the game now. T, like sitting in those stands, the few games I've been able to go to, obviously working with NFL Films, like, I don't think being on the field would bring you that happiness that I have right now watching as a fan.
TEREZ PAYLOR: You understood that this was a business, number one, and how to promote yourself. And that did have like an impact on a generation of players. Have you heard that from players? Do they mention that to you?
CHAD JOHNSON: All of them, all of them, especially the young ones and those that are veterans now in the game. They always mention it. And they understood. And me being a pioneer, in a sense, and not really knowing what I was doing, but there was a method to my madness anyway. It just worked. It worked.
TEREZ PAYLOR: Like, how hard of a Hall of Fame battle do you think it's going to be for you? I'm sure you've talked to players and maybe a few voters, but where are you at on that?
CHAD JOHNSON: I don't really care about that.
TEREZ PAYLOR: Really?
CHAD JOHNSON: No.
TEREZ PAYLOR: All you guys care, Chad. Come on, a little bit?
CHAD JOHNSON: I will never I will never give anyone the satisfaction of having control over my feelings.
TEREZ PAYLOR: Good. Good.
CHAD JOHNSON: I've always been that way. Think about this. Think about this.
TEREZ PAYLOR: It makes sense.
CHAD JOHNSON: If you think about this. If I cared-- you watch me throughout the years, right? The media made me a villain because of the antics and the way I played the game, right? Did I stop doing it?
TEREZ PAYLOR: No, you did not. OK.
CHAD JOHNSON: That means I didn't what?
TEREZ PAYLOR: Care.
CHAD JOHNSON: Exactly.
TEREZ PAYLOR: Got you.
CHAD JOHNSON: And I understood early, what comes with not choosing to conform in staying your authentic self, that it's going to come and bite you in the end because of a thing called politics. Oh, he wanted to do that? Oh, he didn't want to listen? Oh, he wanted to play the game his way. He thinks he's Frank Sinatra. OK, we'll teach him. So what did I do? When I felt I was Hall of Fame worthy, what did I do?
TEREZ PAYLOR: You got the jacket.
CHAD JOHNSON: I put my own jacket on.
TEREZ PAYLOR: Right. Got it.
CHAD JOHNSON: That was the basis and the reason why I did it, no disrespect to those that are in the Hall of Fame. I understood the game of politics that they would play. And at that point, I was at peace and wasn't worried about being inducted.
TEREZ PAYLOR: Tell me what you cared about then.
CHAD JOHNSON: The people of Cincinnati, that's one, that paid, what, $70, $80 a ticket. I don't even remember how much tickets were. I cared about them getting their money's worth week in and week out. I didn't care about the money, because I kept getting fined for taking the extreme, for the things that they glorify today.
TEREZ PAYLOR: Yeah, I mean it must kill you to watch these-- like, they've relaxed the celebration rules.
CHAD JOHNSON: They've got a celebration camera.
TEREZ PAYLOR: Right, the Showtime camera, it must kill you watching it.
CHAD JOHNSON: What? You know, I might file a grievance. I might file a grievance and ask Tagliabue and ask Ladelle for all my money back. It would just be fair.
TEREZ PAYLOR: You partnered with Madden to promote the Video Game Numbers Challenge. I want to make sure you tell us all about it.
CHAD JOHNSON: Yeah, well, obviously the Video Game Numbers Challenge is allowing the fans and engaging the fans, allowing them control over who is going to get in the Pro Bowl this year, whether it's AFC players or NFC players, everything is in control and in the fans' hands.
Obviously, it's going to be a pool of 32 players. And the more you score with that individual player, whoever it is that you might have, every touchdown counts as a vote for him to get in the virtual Pro Bowl.
TEREZ PAYLOR: How are you going to get involved, man? Are you going to play a little bit?
CHAD JOHNSON: Everybody keeps asking me to play, and I'd rather not play, being that I am superior at the game. And I think it would be unfair to those around the world for me to really involve myself in something that I have dominated over the years. So I'm going to let the others have at it and have fun and enjoy getting their favorite players in.
TEREZ PAYLOR: Chad, this has been great. I've held you too long, man. Thank you so much for your time, man.
CHAD JOHNSON: I appreciate it, boss. Thank you.
TEREZ PAYLOR: See you, man.