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New Bengals cornerback meets Chad

| Monday, May 1, 2006

CINCINNATI (AP) - Johnathan Joseph had just landed at the airport and was headed for Paul Brown Stadium when his cell phone buzzed.

The first-round draft pick from South Carolina didn't recognize the number of the caller, so he ignored it.

Then, it rang again. Same number. Hmmm.

Who could this be?

The Cincinnati Bengals' cornerback-to-be called back to find out.

"I said, 'Did someone call Johnathan?' He said, 'Yeah,'" Joseph recalled. "I said, 'Who is this?'"

Joseph didn't recognize the voice. He needed only a short sentence to figure out the identity.

"He said, 'It's 85.'"

Joseph knows what the number means. In Cincinnati, it's as distinctive as a Pepto-Bismol shipment or a Riverdance touchdown celebration.

Chad Johnson was calling to welcome him — and talk a little trash, of course.

The Pro Bowl receiver called the draft pick Saturday night, shortly after he arrived from South Carolina. Wanted to welcome him to the team and set him straight on a few things.

Such as: No cornerback can cover him — not in a game, not in practice.

"He's talking some trash," Joseph said Sunday morning, amused at the memory. "He just introduced me, welcomed me as a teammate. He didn't say too much. He wanted to put the cleats on right here, go at it a little bit."

There will be plenty of time for that later on. First, he had to get the lay of the land and find his way around.

Chad helped with that, too.

Joseph visited the Bengals' stadium while the coaches got ready to make their third-round pick, stopping briefly at the draft room as part of his tour of the facility. Then, Johnson showed up to drive him around town and show him the sights.

It won't be long before they'll be lining up against each other in practice.

The Bengals took Joseph with the 24th overall pick, the first time they've drafted a cornerback with their top pick in their 39-year history. He played only one full season at South Carolina, so he's still a work in progress.

Bengals coaches talked to him Sunday about the areas where he needs to improve, including his tackling.

"Johnathan knows the things that we really like about him, and the things that we have concerns about," defensive backs coach Kevin Coyle said. "And I think he's been very receptive to that."

Joseph considered staying for another year at South Carolina, but finances figured into his decision. He has a 2-year-old son, his father is a retired mill worker, and his mother does janitorial work at a high school.

"It was a real hard decision for me to come out of school," he said. "It came right down to the last minute. It was a long thought process. I think I made the best decision."

Now, he gets to learn the NFL by practicing against one of its best receivers, one who insists that no cornerback can keep up with him.

So, can he cover Chad?

"We'll see," Joseph said, smiling. Additional Information:

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