It was a conspiracy, plain and simple.
Payoffs were given. Promises were made. League rules were skirted. If we could've been a fly on the wall in Cleveland safety Brian Russell's hotel room on Saturday night, here's what I believe we would've heard:
"Hey, Russell. Whassup, man? This is 7-11 calling."
"Yo, what's shakin', man? Hey, you really supposed to be calling me the night before a game?"
"No worries, man. No worries. Listen, I'm pretty mad about this anti-celebration stuff. I mean, now I can't use props when I score a touchdown? And I can't fall to the ground? And I can't take off my helmet? It's crap, man. Total crap. I mean, don't they know that stuff like that is what makes Chad Johnson Chad Johnson?"
"Yeah, it's a bummer, man."
"So listen. Russ. I got a plan. You and I both know my Bengals gonna eat your Browns for lunch tomorrow."
"And I got this blond Mohawk I'm dyin' to show off. So here's what we're gonna do. With two minutes left in the game, I'm gonna get Coach to leave me in. He'll do anything I ask. So I'm gonna go across the middle, and Carson's gonna throw a wounded duck. I'll pre-loosen my chinstrap. All you gotta do is blow me up, man."
"Really? That's what you want? You just want me to hit you really really hard? Wait a minute. Is that new commissioner dude listening to this conversation?"
"Nah. Nah, man, this is for real. My helmet'll come flyin' off, and the world will see the beauty of my 'do. Whaddaya say?"
Needless to say, Mr. Russell agreed, and so Chad Johnson leads off this week's Damage Report:
Chad Johnson, Cin – It was a double-dip of injuries for 7-11 (so self-named because he's "always open"). First he made a fine catch in the end zone on a second-quarter pass, but landed awkwardly on his shoulder and could only half-heartedly give his rendition of the Chicken Dance in celebration. But he returned for Cincy's next series. More worrisome was his collision with Russell, in which his helmet went flying, his chin was pretty badly cut, and he acquired a concussion severe enough that a teammate had to drive him home. It remains to be seen whether the concussion will prevent him from missing any time.
Terrell Owens, Dal – Owners wondering why T.O. was unimpressive in Dallas's Sunday night win over Washington (three catches, 19 yards, and three drops) wake to discover Owens broke the ring finger on his right hand. Uh, at least there's a good explanation for the bad performance? The Cowboys are saying that Owens will miss "two-to-four weeks," which isn't particularly helpful. Dallas has a bye next week, so if you're a T.O. owner, you already weren't counting on him in Week 3. And I guess we'll just have to wait and see what the reports are like for Week 4. In the meantime, Terry Glenn is now the Cowboys' WR1, and Patrick Crayton is suddenly a starter.
Rod Smith, Den – Like Johnson, Smith was concussed on Sunday afternoon. He took two pretty big hits and was limited to only two catches for 16 yards, and was on the sideline as Javon Walker made a crucial 24-yard catch in overtime to set up the Broncos for their game-winning field goal. Smith did talk with reporters after the game, so it seems he wasn't quite as looped-out as 7-11.
Roddy White, Atl – White was crunched by Tampa Bay DBs Jermaine Phillips and Torrie Cox on the Falcons' opening series, and left with a rib injury – He also fumbled on the play, though it was a pretty sweet over-the-middle catch. White didn't return, and reportedly had X-rays, the results of which should be announced soon.
Reggie Brown, Phi – Brown strained a hammy toward the end of Philly's game against the Giants, and didn't return. He scored his second TD in two weeks before the play, and didn't seem to think it was a huge deal.
Marcus Robinson, Min – One of the biggest teases in the history of fantasy football, Robinson was supposed to be a primary beneficiary of the departure of Koren Robinson. Instead, he hurt his hamstring in the second half on Sunday (and didn't have a single catch before that), and didn't return. He'll have an MRI on Monday.
Marty Booker, Mia – One of Week 1's pleasant surprises, Booker caught three balls for only 33 yards on Sunday, and says he "tweaked" a bad ankle. A "tweak" doesn't sound like a game-missing phenomenon, but perhaps it explains the low output.
Keenan McCardell, SD – McCardell left Sunday's game against the Titans with a strained hamstring, though considering what an utter debacle the game was, I'd have been surprised if some of the Chargers hadn't asked out after hurting themselves laughing. Anyway, the hammy injury is considered "minor."
Aaron Brooks, Oak – Brooks fumbled two snaps before he could throw a pass, and on the second, as he was attempting to recover the ball, the entire Baltimore Ravens defense collapsed on him, and Brooks sprained his right rotator cuff. He didn't return, and Andrew Walter took over (poorly) from there. The overall problem with the Oakland offense is the pitiable play of the offensive line, so it doesn't really much matter who's at the helm. Art Shell says Brooks will reclaim his job if he's able after the team's Week 3 bye.
LaMont Jordan, Oak – Jordan had to leave the Baltimore game with a twisted ankle in the third quarter; the fact that he missed a couple plays and wasn't around to block for Walter helped the Ravens log a safety two plays later. Jordan returned the next series, though, and received six more carries in the game, so he's probably fine. Plus Oakland has a bye next week.
Brian Westbrook, Phi – Physically, Westbrook came through the Giants game just fine, and showed no signs of being limited by his puffy knee. Emotionally, though, it's hard to be sure. That fourth-quarter fumble was a killer.
Corey Dillon, NE – Is Dillon hurt? Isn't he? The Patriots (surprise) aren't talking, and probably won't tell you anything leading up to next week's game against Denver, but he looked angry and sore toward the end of the game on Sunday, and as a TV camera tried to get a close-up on his anguish, a trainer tried to block the lens, paparazzi-style. Dillon's a pretty tough dude, so he'll probably be all right, but keep an eye peeled just in case.
Cedric Cobbs, Den – With the Bells dominating carries in Denver, Cobbs has been relegated to returning kickoffs (alongside Mike Bell), and hurt his ankle while fumbling the opening overtime kickoff on Sunday. The Broncos are reportedly calling it a "severe ankle sprain," which doesn't make it sound like Cobbs will be playing for at least a couple weeks.
Itula Mili, Sea – Mili hurt his knee and had to come out in the fourth quarter of Seattle's game against Arizona. Mike Holmgren indicated that the damage was potentially bad to Mili, but wouldn't speculate on how much time he'd miss. Jerramy Stevens is already out after knee surgery, so the Seahawks would be down to Will Heller at tight end if Mili can't go next week.
Jeremy Shockey, NYG – Does Shockey have little-girl ankles, or what? Surprise, surprise, the Giants tight end was rather severely hobbled by his perpetually bad ankle on Sunday, and caught only two passes for 17 yards against the Eagles – though, to be fair, the longest of these, a 15-yarder on the sidelines, did come with 20 seconds left in the game, setting up the tying field goal. Shockey probably won't miss time, but pretty much has to be downgraded fantasy-wise, as his limp was noticeable practically all day.
Ben Utecht, Ind – Utecht got dinged hard by Houston safeties C.C. Brown and Glenn Earl on a 26-yard first-quarter catch, and left with a concussion, which allowed Bryan Fletcher to play a bit more than usual, and catch a third-quarter TD. Utecht did return, though he didn't catch any more passes.
Adam Vinatieri, Ind – Vinatieri pulled his groin in the fourth quarter on Sunday, and couldn't kick the extra point on the Colts' final TD. Punter Hunter Smith had to come in and try (and missed). As of this writing, Indy hasn't said whether Vinatieri will miss any additional time.
Rich Braham, Cin – The Bengals' starting center seemed to hurt his knee very badly in the second quarter of Sunday's game; he was in obvious pain as doctors attended to him, and had to be carted off the field. Fortunately, the Bengals are calling Braham's injury a "deep knee bruise." The Bengals were already missing OT Levi Jones, who missed the game with an ankle injury, so Cincy's o-line is hurting.
Charles Spencer, Hou – The rookie left tackle is probably done for the year after suffering a pretty grisly injury at the hands of his teammate Ron Dayne. Dayne was trying to get to the hole, but accidentally stepped on Spencer's lower leg, snapping the bone. Don't expect to see this third-round pick again in '06.
Mike Flanagan, Hou – The veteran center left the Indy game with an injured left foot. He was able to leave under his own power, but didn't return.
Orlando Pace, StL – The stud offensive lineman was concussed on the final drive of the first half of the Rams' loss Sunday, and was taken to a San Francisco hospital for tests. Right tackle Todd Steussie moved over to Pace's left side, which is presumably what would happen next weekend if Pace can't go.
Jonathan Ogden, Bal – Another great big o-line stud left his game, though this one didn't seem as serious; Ogden hyper-extended his knee, but reportedly could've returned had the game been in question.
Floyd Womack, Sea – Good ol' Pork Chop sprained his left knee late in Sunday's game against Arizona, and didn't return, though Mike Holmgren said he expected the Womack also could've come back in had the Seahawks needed him.
Justin Smiley, SF – The happiest-named player in the NFL dislocated his shoulder against the Rams, but didn't miss any time – Perhaps they should change his name to "Justin Sturdy"? He's probably not going to miss any time, which is good news, because neither Larry Allen nor Jonas Jennings is likely to return for Week 3.
Javon Kearse, Phi – The Freak looked like he hurt himself pretty badly while sacking Eli Manning in overtime on Sunday, and had to be carted off the field with a bad left knee. He'll have an MRI on Monday, but it doesn't look good. Trent Cole, who may have cost the Eagles Sunday's game because of a personal foul he incurred on the Giants' last drive (for kicking OT Karim McKenzie) would be the primary IDP beneficiary of a protracted Kearse absence.
Erasmus James, Min – James left the Vikings' game against Carolina in the fourth quarter on Sunday with a left knee injury of his own, and will also have an MRI, but told reporters he didn't think he'd miss any time.
Dwight Freeney, Ind – It didn't look like a horrible injury, but Freeney left the Houston game Sunday in the fourth quarter, walking to the locker room under his own power. The Colts would only say it was a "leg injury," and that he'd undergo tests on Monday.
Willie McGinest, Cle – McGinest was listed as probable all week, but reportedly hurt his calf in pre-game warm-ups and decided he couldn't go. Nice signing, there, Browns.
David Pollack, Cin – The 2005 first-rounder wrenched his neck badly tackling Reuben Droughns on Cleveland's second offensive play of Sunday's game and was on the ground for a very long time before being carted off. Fortunately, he was moving by the time he left the field and gave the thumbs-up sign to Cincy fans.
Pisa Tinoisamoa, StL – Tinoisamoa dislocated his elbow tackling Niners fullback Chris Hetherington in the third quarter on Sunday. Considering the amount of pain he was in, and how absolutely nasty it is to think about dislocating your elbow, it seems like Tinoisamoa might miss some time.
Alex Lewis, Det – Lewis suffered what team officials reportedly called a "ligament injury" to his knee on the Bears' first possession of the game Sunday.
Grant Irons, Oak – Art Shell mentioned Irons as having hurt his back in his post-game press conference, but didn't mention how severe the injury is.
Dexter Jackson, Cin – Jackson sprained his ankle making a tackle in the second quarter of Cincy's Sunday win, and didn't return.
Roderick Hood, Phi – Already down Lito Sheppard, the Eagles lost his replacement, Hood, to a heel injury that reportedly had him limping severely after the game. Philly's vaunted cornerback depth may be sorely tested next week.
Gary Baxter, Cle – One of the league's most underrated corners can't stay on the field; he told reporters Sunday that he'd "definitely" aggravated one of his troublesome pectoral muscles. It remains to be seen if he'll miss more time.
Kenoy Kennedy, Det – The Lions' starting strong safety, Kennedy left Sunday's tilt against the Bears with a bad foot.
Jon McGraw, Det – Kennedy's backup then left the game with a concussion.
Ken Lucas, Car – The press box announcer in Minnesota reported Lucas left Sunday's game with a shoulder strain; coach John Fox said it was a strained neck. He'll have tests Monday.