Cowboys Sign Embattled Johnson to Contract

Article excerpt

The NFL again proved to be the National Forgiveness League when the Dallas Cowboys signed defensive tackle Tank Johnson.

Johnson is serving an eight-game suspension for repeated run-ins with the law and isn't eligible to play for the Cowboys until their Nov. 11 game against the New York Giants (he could get the suspension reduced to six games).

This is officially his second chance, though Johnson got so many of them in Chicago that the Bears had no choice but to release him after he was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence (no charges were filed against Johnson) after serving jail time for weapons charges.

A cynic might point out that Johnson is only getting a reprieve because he can play and because the Cowboys need help on the defensive line after losing tackle Jason Ferguson to a season- ending biceps injury.

But Johnson is a soft-spoken, well-meaning guy who also happens to be one of those people that trouble just seems to find.

The reaction by the Bears after he signed with the Cowboys last Tuesday showed just how well-liked he was in Chicago by his teammates and even coaches.

"I believe he's a good guy, and he can help somebody's football team (if he can) get down there and stay out of trouble," Bears tight end Desmond Clark said. "He got derailed a little bit, but he'll come back, he'll bounce back and he's going to stay out of trouble."

"I believe in Tank. I still do," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "You get to a point sometimes, in certain places, where you come to your last chance. That's what happened here."

For the Cowboys, signing Johnson is a low-risk, high-reward proposition since they only gave him the league minimum for the two- year contract that he signed.

And to Dallas' credit, it did its due diligence in the matter.

The Cowboys spoke with Johnson's former coaches and teammates, law enforcement officials and even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell during their background check -- one that started after the Bears released Johnson.

They also consulted former Cowboys great Calvin Hill, who heads the team's player assistance department and is the father of NBA player/model citizen Grant Hill.

"I believe in giving people second chances," Hill said. "One of the things that is attractive about (Dallas owner) Jerry (Jones) is that Jerry believes in giving people second chances. It's not to say he condones continued bad behavior. We all make mistakes. I think Tank, and certainly the people in this building, feel like he's got a second chance. …