While Johnson is an enigmatic sports personality and draws attention wherever he goes and for whatever he does, the reality is that he has been out of the game for two years and, at age 36, might not be able to contribute much to an Alouettes squad that struggled last year and that is in flux after the retirement of superstar quarterback Anthony Calvillo.
Johnson's attempted CFL comeback brings to mind other high-profile attempts to return to football by way of the Canadian game.
For example, a decade ago, a 37-year-old Andre Rison decided to come out of retirement after three years away from the sport. Although he was a part of the Toronto Argonauts' 2004 Grey Cup champion team, he caught just 14 passes in five appearances that year, averaging a decent—but unremarkable—12.4 yards per catch while scoring just a single touchdown.
A year later, "Bad Moon" played in just one game, catching one pass for four yards before being released.
Johnson's comeback attempt with Montreal mirrors Rison's in that they're of a similar age and have been away from the game for a similar amount of time. That may not bode well for Johnson's bid.
What makes this even more interesting (at least for me) is that there has been no mention of Montreal pursuing quarterback Tim Tebow, who is the property of the Alouettes in the CFL. Although Tebow has stated in the past that he isn't interested in a CFL career—preferring to continue to chase his dream of once again playing quarterback in the NFL—a full season away from the field may have changed his feelings on the matter.
While people like former CFL and NFL quarterback Warren Moon have said that Tebow's passing abilities (or lack thereof) make him a poor candidate for the CFL, the fact that no one is even giving him a training camp invite surprises me, as Tebow's reputation for hard work and the media attention he brings would probably be a positive for any team that gave him a shot.
Montreal is in need of a starting quarterback. Calvillo's retirement leaves a big gap in that spot, and the team has yet to re-sign its No. 2 quarterback from last year, Josh Neiswander, who remains a free agent.
Neiswander threw for 1,311 yards last year, and having both of the top two quarterbacks for the team currently out of the picture makes the Alouettes especially vulnerable in a pass-first league. While their third option from 2013, Tanner Marsh, is signed and threw for 972 yards last year, they are thin in that critical spot.
Having as many choices as possible on the preseason roster makes sense to me, and that might include someone like Tebow—because, at the end of the day, all the receivers in the world won't matter if they don't have someone who can consistently throw to them.
But all of this conjecture could still be for naught. The CFL and the Players Association are still in the process of renegotiating a new collective bargaining agreement and, as CFLPA president (and Montreal lineman) Scott Flory has stated, the players will not play under the terms of the current deal, which expires on May 30.
Said Flory, via Curtis Rush of the Toronto Star: "The players want a fair share and deserve a fair share of what’s gone on in this league because it’s been on the backs of the players that the CFL has enjoyed the success and continued growth."
If no agreement can be reached before the May 30 deadline passes, the players might strike, putting the preseason in jeopardy, which might spill over into the regular season as well. And that could make any discussion about Chad Johnson, Tim Tebow or any other former NFL player trying to make the CFL moot.
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