He was once one of the most recognisable faces in the entire NFL. A once in a generation receiver who's supreme talent was matched by his charisma and bravado.
Now, he's going to spend some time behind bars.
Quite a fall from grace for the artist formerly know as 'Ochocinco'.
Johnson was sentenced to 30 days behind bars on Monday for violating his probation, stemming from a domestic violence case involving his now ex-wife, reality star Evelyn Lozada. Johnson pleaded no contest to head-butting Lozada last August, for which he received the initial probation. He failed to meet with his probation officer on two occasions and didn't enrol in a batterers intervention program and was forced to turn himself into the authorities in May.
By all reports, Johnson allegedly treated the proceedings with complete and utter disrespect, something judge Kathleen McHugh didn't take kindly to at all. The former Bengal was seen laughing and joking, even patting his lawyer on the rear playfully during proceedings. NFL players have a history of avoiding jail time, perhaps due to their notoriety and high-priced legal aid, Johnson seemingly thinking that would be enough for him to avoid a prison term on this occasion.
However, from the moment McHugh began speaking, it was clear that wasn't going to be the case.
"I don't know that you're taking this whole thing seriously. I just saw you slap your attorney on the backside. Is there something funny about this?" McHugh said, furiously slamming the plea deal document down on her desk. "The whole courtroom was laughing. I'm not going to accept these plea negotiations. This isn't a joke." This opening statement left Johnson dumbfounded and he was immediately apologetic and on the back foot. The severity of the situation had obviously hit him like the proverbial sledgehammer, but it was too late. The 6-time Pro Bowler's actions had already done the damage, something that has been a frequent occurrence throughout his career.
"This is your courtroom. I have no intent to make this a joke. It's not funny," Johnson told the judge. "My life is in a shambles right now and I try my best to laugh and keep a smile on my face." Johnson might have gotten away with that sort of talk in-front of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, but this was a whole different ball game. There is a time and a place for laughing and joking, the inside of a courtroom when you're facing jail time not being one of them. Johnson, as he has done for most of his adult life, pushed his luck just a little too far.
McHugh then stated it wasn't the first time that he had behaved this way in a courtroom when she was present. The 35-year old could have been given up to a year in jail, so a 30-day sentence isn't as bad as it could have been. As a somber Johnson was handcuffed and led away to begin his term, it left everybody asking the same question.
Where did it all go wrong?
This was a man who had it all. A former second round pick out of Oregon State, Johnson would go on to reach the pinnacle of the league. He amassed 11,059 yards receiving throughout his career and made the All-Pro team on three occasions. He led the entire NFL in receiving in 2006 and at that time there was no hotter athlete on the planet than Johnson. He graced every magazine cover you could possibly think of, had endorsement deals from some extremely high-profile brands, namely Reebok and Go Daddy. At the height of his powers he was earning $11.75 million a year from the Bengals alone. At the time, he was worth every penny. He was a highlight reel waiting to happen and you could count on one hand the amount of Cornerback's that could him cover him one-on-one and limit his production.
His off-the-field antics during his time in the NFL gathered just as many, if not more, column inches than his play on the field. He was known for his showboating antics after touchdowns, his loud demeanour and arrogance oozed out of him. There would be reports of his behaviour causing friction with his teammates almost every single week. You just couldn't keep him out of the headlines, be them good or bad. He has been labelled a 'Cancer' in the locker-room, and by the time the Bengals traded him to the New England Patriots in 2011, he was past his best and more trouble than he was worth. You see, players as good as Johnson will always have more chances that your average receiver, simply because his outstanding play on the field is worth all the drama that a player of Johnson's nature brings. When his contribution decreased, so did his chances of remaining with the team he had been a part of his whole career.
When he arrived in New England, there was a real sense of optimism upon his arrival. With Tom Brady throwing him the ball, Bill Belichick keeping him focused and a legitimate chance of a Championship, all sings pointed to an invigorated Johnson putting up some strong numbers. Sadly, this wasn't the case. His ability has decreased significantly, unable to get separation and his 276 yards in 15 games the lowest of his entire career. When a Quarterback like Tom Brady can't make you better, you know it's only a matter of time before the league is done with you.
'Ochocinco' was inevitably released by the Patriots, and the 5th and 6th round picks they gave up for him now looked like a bum deal, when at the time of the trade it had the potential to be a steal. Johnson was on the scrapheap for the first time in his NFL career. However, as is the case with enigmatic talent such as his, he got another shot.Chad Johnson is off to jail after violating his probation.
This time it was the Miami Dolphins who took a chance on Johnson. It would backfire miserably, and quickly. He was released the day after his arrest in August and hasn't been seen with an NFL team since. You would have to think with this latest incident that we have seen the last of Johnson in a helmet and pads. It's simply not worth the trouble for teams when you consider what he can actually bring to the table. There have been success stories in recent memory of players who have made comebacks after a stint behind bars, notably Michael Vick and Plaxico Burress. Even Johnson's sentence is nowhere near as severe as the two players mentioned, his attitude during court proceedings would indicate that he hasn't changed and quite frankly isn't likely to.
Johnson will have a lot of time to think about the decisions he has made that have led to this point. His lifestyle, his one-month marriage, his idiotic behaviour in court. The list is endless.
One thing is certain, he will have plenty of regrets.
He just pushed his luck once too often.
Dean Jones: Follow me on Twitter @DeanJones_