If Chad Johnson decides to sit out the season, Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said Tuesday the team is prepared to move on without him.
"We've been dealing with this inside for over a year and we'll be prepared to move on," Lewis told reporters, according to the team's Web site. "He has a contract through 2011. If he plays NFL football it will be in Cincinnati, or he has to do what he says and that's retire. That would be a shame. We'll do everything we can to help him out of this and try to restore his image."
Lewis reiterated Tuesday that the team has no plans to trade Johnson, but he's willing to welcome Johnson back to the team if he changes his tune.
"It's unfortunate that Chad has put himself in that situation because a lot of people who really had affection for him now see him in a different light," Lewis said, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.
"Hopefully some of the things he said, he's going to have to face one way or another. If he shows and does things, and does [them] the right way, I'm willing to take the bullets for him again and allow him to come back the right way."
The Bengals head coach called on his team not to let the Johnson distraction affect them.
"The rest of the team has to grow up and understand that whether it's your first-round pick, whether it's the guy in the last year of his contract and feels like he needs a new contract in order to play, sometimes these things happen and every guy judges it differently," Lewis said, according to the team's Web site. "They've got to be professionals and be prepared and I've told them not to worry about all this other stuff.
"They've had to deal with it already with the perception that's been there with that. It can't continue to be an issue with you. Let it go. It is where it is. Right now it's not there, so don't worry about it. Let's move forward."
Johnson stopped talking to the local media last season, but went on national interview shows before the Super Bowl and again last month reiterating that he feels unappreciated. Johnson has said repeatedly that he'd like to play for another team.
The Bengals would take a huge hit to their salary cap if they traded him. Johnson has four years left on his contract, which was extended in April 2006. He will make $3 million in base salary next season, and can make $18.5 million over the rest of the deal.
He caught 93 passes for a club-record 1,440 yards and eight touchdowns last season, when he became the Bengals' career leader in catches and yards.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.