Coley Harvey | ESPN.com
CINCINNATI — One day after sending shock waves throughout the Queen City by telling booing Bengals fans to “leave,” defensive end Michael Johnson stood by his comments Monday and said he didn’t regret making them.
“I was asked a question and I tried to answer it truthfully from the heart,” Johnson said inside the Bengals’ locker room. “Anybody who knows me knows that it’s genuine. We’re here to win; we want to win. Just as bad as it pains people watching the game when we don’t do well, it hurts us 10 times more.”
I was asked a question and I tried to answer it truthfully from the heart. Anybody who knows me knows that it’s genuine. We’re here to win, we want to win. Just as bad as it pains people watching the game when we don’t do well, it hurts us 10 times more.
” — Michael Johnson, standing by comments on Bengals fans
Those comments came following ones made by Johnson just after Sunday’s 41-20 victory at home over the Cleveland Browns that touched a nerve among Bengals fans. Some on social media sided with him. Many others did not.
“If you’re not believing and being positive, leave,” Johnson said while changing after the win. “We don’t need you. Because that’s what we’re about around here — staying focused, staying positive and keeping our energy going. Negativity breeds negativity, and we don’t do that around here.”
Specifically, he was referring to a sequence late in the first quarter when seemingly thousands of fans booed Cincinnati’s offense following a third series that ended in a three-and-out. As quarterback Andy Dalton and the rest of the Bengals’ offense jogged off the field to give way to the punt unit, the masses made it known that they were restless and angry. A smattering of boos sounded following the previous Bengals drive, too, when a Dalton pass was intercepted by Browns cornerback Joe Haden, who returned the ball 29 yards for a touchdown that gave Cleveland an early 13-0 lead.
Along with the interceptions and stalled drives, the boos also likely stemmed from Dalton’s play across the past three weeks. Since posting a 4-0 record through his first four games in October and earning AFC offensive player of the month honors, Dalton has been a much different player. He’s gone 1-2, tossed eight interceptions and seen his Total QBR plummet. He hasn’t had a QBR above 20.0 in the last three games. Sunday’s 3.7 was a career worst.
For perspective, Dalton had QBRs of 92.8 and 98.9 in the two games before his individual slide.
During Sunday’s game, a group of fans in the upper deck of the east stands unfurled a long banner that read: “Will the real Andy please step up?”
“It just goes back to when you’re kids,” Johnson said Monday. “Everybody heard that ‘If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say it at all.’ Being at home, I love playing at home. We’re undefeated here this year. I love our fans. And they do a great job of being loud and making it tough on the other team.
“But that’s who we want them to make it tough for: the other team.”
Left tackle Andrew Whitworth, an eight-year veteran, has been through his share of losing seasons in Cincinnati and is all too familiar with the occasional Paul Brown Stadium boo birds.
“I don’t pay attention to that. If you play offense like we did in the first three series, you’re going to get booed,” Whitworth said. “I’ve been here when we were 0-8. So that ain’t crap. That ain’t booing. I can remember seeing No. 9 [Carson Palmer] jerseys getting thrown on the field … on the back of our sideline. So I’ve been around it. That’s Cincinnati. That’s some of the nature here.”
Be that as it may, Johnson hopes this episode will soon be forgotten.
“We’re just priming them for this playoff run,” Johnson said, laughing while referring to the 7-4 Bengals’ AFC North lead and 5-0 record at home this season. “I’m sure we won’t have that problem any more this year, or for the years to come.”
- Previously covered Florida State for Orlando Sentinel and Georgia Tech for Macon Telegraph
- Northwestern University graduate