Cowboys Sign Suspended Tank Johnson

Wednesday, September 19th 2007, 7:21 am
By: News On 6

IRVING, Texas (AP) _ Suspended defensive tackle Tank Johnson signed a two-year contract Tuesday with the Dallas Cowboys. Johnson, who played the last three seasons for the Chicago Bears, can't play for the Cowboys and won't be paid until he completes his eight-game NFL suspension for violating probation on a gun charge.

He has served the first two games of that suspension and will still have to apply for reinstatement.

Johnson signed after visiting with the Cowboys and taking a physical. He will make about $255,000 this season, the prorated portion of a minimum contract.

``For a lot of reasons, he really just felt the Cowboys were the right fit,'' said Johnson's agent, Jerrold Colton. ``He's so thankful to them for giving him this opportunity. He is very determined to prove they made a wise decision in believing in him.''

The team issued a news release confirming the signing and announcing that Johnson will discuss the signing in a conference call Wednesday.

The Cowboys also said that Calvin Hill, a former player who is now a consultant specializing in monitoring troubled players, will be available for comment Wednesday, as will coach Wade Phillips, owner Jerry Jones and Johnson's new teammates.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the earliest Johnson would be eligible to play is Nov. 11 at the New York Giants, the Cowboys' ninth game of the season. Dallas has an open date in the NFL's eighth week.

Johnson could provide late-season depth on a defensive line that lost starting nose tackle Jason Ferguson for the year because of a torn right biceps in the opener. But Johnson will have to adjust to Cowboys' 3-4 scheme, which is different from what he's played in Chicago.

Although Johnson can't work out with Dallas until the week of the Giants game after his suspension ends, the team had to make room for him on the 53-man roster. The Cowboys released backup cornerback Nate Jones on Tuesday.

The Cowboys will place Johnson on the reserve/suspended list Wednesday, the earliest that move can be made. That will create a roster opening.

Jay Ratliff, a third-year player, replaced Ferguson as the starting nose tackle. Ratliff has five tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery for the Cowboys (2-0). Coincidentally, Dallas plays at Chicago on Sunday night.

In 46 games (15 starts) with the Bears, Johnson had 63 tackles, nine sacks and a forced fumble. He was a second-round pick out of Washington in 2004.

The Bears released Johnson on June 25, three days after he was pulled over by police in Gilbert, Ariz. He already had served a two-month jail term for the gun charge and been suspended by the NFL for violating the league's personal conduct policy.

Gilbert police closed the June case without charging Johnson, who was stopped for speeding. His blood alcohol level was .072, under the presumptive limit for DUI.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had said the suspension could be reduced to six games if Johnson had no further involvement with law enforcement and underwent counseling. That was before Johnson was stopped in Arizona.

Last December, police raided Johnson's suburban Chicago home and found six unregistered firearms _ a violation of his probation on an earlier gun charge.

That charge stemmed from Johnson's 2005 arrest after a Chicago nightclub valet reported seeing Johnson with a handgun in his SUV. He subsequently pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge.

Two days after last December's raid, Willie B. Posey, Johnson's bodyguard, was shot and killed in an early morning fight while he and Johnson were at a Chicago nightclub.

Johnson was suspended by the Bears for one game for being at the club. He played in the Super Bowl when the Bears lost to Indianapolis.

During Jones' ownership, the Cowboys have taken on plenty of players whose character flaws have cost them jobs elsewhere. They were successful with Alonzo Spellman, another former Bears player, in 1999-2000 but less so with Dimitrius Underwood in 2000-01.

Jones signed few players with off-field issues the past four seasons, when Bill Parcells was coach. With Dallas off to a strong start after making the playoffs last season, Jones apparently sees this as a low-risk, high-reward gamble.