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Senior NFL Columnist

Johnson's Dolphins departure reminds that production AND conduct matter

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DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins practiced Monday. They ran plays. They threw passes. They hit a little.

And then they left the field, another ho-hum training-camp day.

Chad Johnson? He is dead to them.

That's the NFL, folks. That's how you live your life when you're an NFL player or coach or support staff. On the roster, you're one of them. Off, and you're out.

It's cruel, but so, so true, documented right before your eyes by the NFL cameras here to film the HBO documentary, Hard Knocks.

If you expected any lingering anger or sign of discontent with Johnson's release by the team Sunday, it sure wasn't apparent watching practice or talking to the players after it. Yeah, they liked Johnson and some, like linebacker Karlos Dansby, voiced some concern about the move. But in a day or two you can bet Chad Johnson will be forgotten in the locker room.

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Cruel reality: He's dead to them now -- in a football sense.

"That's football," Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake said. "You're always going to miss the guys you played with. Your friends aren't going to help you win football games. He's not on the team right now, so we're moving forward."

Johnson, who was released following his arrest Saturday night for allegedly head-butting his wife, really wasn't worth the aggravation in terms of helping this team win games. He doesn't play well enough to justify his actions. His career was on its last legs anyway.

He talked and Tweeted better than he played.

First-year Dolphins coach Joe Philbin is a no-nonsense guy. It was a shaky marriage between he and Johnson from the start, but one that almost had no chance to last. You saw that last week when Philbin had an on-air chat with Johnson during Hard Knocks about his use of "F-bombs" during his meet with the media. The arrest was the last straw.

"It was more a body of evidence from June 11 forward," Philbin said. "When he came in on June 11 we sat down and talked, and I was very clear on the expectations of the program and it just didn't work out."

But if this were Andre -- and not Chad -- Johnson, you can bet the cut wouldn't have been made. Coaches are hypocritical when it comes to player conduct.

I am not singling out Philbin here. He is a first-time NFL head coach, and he is no different from the rest.

Ask yourself this, though: If this happened to Wake, the team's best pass rusher, does he get cut?

It's performance and conduct. Not just conduct. And the conduct discipline usually depends on how good you are.

See Lawrence Taylor. Bill Parcells is considered one of the best coaches of the past few decades. Yet, he knew of Taylor's off-field issues and seemed to turn a blind eye to them.

Why? Taylor could still rush the passer on Sundays even if he stayed out all night Saturday. What if a second-team linebacker had been doing the same things as Taylor? Does he get cut? Probably.

That's the coaching hypocritical oath. It's the double standard, even if they won't admit it. Coaches preach that they treat everybody the same, but we know better.

They are paid by how many games they win, which means they are going to do everything possible to keep the players who can help them the most on the field.

Some TV reporters kept asking Dolphins players if this move was a message being sent by Philbin and his staff.

I could only laugh. The message here is one all NFL players already know. Production means value and the benefit of the doubt. Lack of it means you get no wiggle room.

Johnson was never fast and was slowing down. Old and slow? You must go. Coming out of a jail, it's an even easier decision. He simply wasn't worth it for Philbin.

"It was not based on one single incident," Philbin said. "Essentially, we take into account the overall body of evidence to determine whether an individual is the right fit for this organization, and more specifically, this football team." Dansby was the one player who did publicly express disappointment at the decision, telling a local radio station that the move would be a bigger distraction than if Johnson was kept around. He didn't back down from those comments after practice.

Dansby's been around a while, playing for two teams. He has to know that by the end of the week, he won't even give Johnson's plight another thought. They will clean out Johnson's locker, somebody else will move in, and the game will go on.

It happens when players get hurt and cut all the time. The locker room mourns for a second and then moves on, happy it's not them.

"It is a distraction, but you have to get back to work," Dolphins safety Reshad Jones said.

You could feel this football death in the thick Florida air Monday. A career probably died.

But the grieving process is short. Coping is a way of life in the NFL.

Practice goes on. Games go on. Careers go on.

The hardest knock of all: Chad Johnson is now dead to the Miami Dolphins players, even if they might not realize it just yet.


Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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