For the second time this season, Saints safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson goaded a Bears receiver into an ejection.
On Sunday, it was Bears receiver Anthony Miller who shoved Gardner-Johnson in the third quarter. Miller received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and was ejected from the game. The Bears lost to the Saints, 21-9, in a Wild Card round playoff game.
Earlier in the season, it was Bears receiver Javon Wims who threw two punches at Gardner-Johnson during a Nov. 1 game at Soldier Field. Wims was ejected from that game and served a two-game suspension.
Bears wide receivers coach Mike Furrey previously said that Wims was lucky to remain a member of the Chicago Bears after that game. Furrey had told his receivers, “Do not get involved with 22,” moments before Wims punched the trash-talking safety in the No. 22 uniform.
That message was reiterated this week in the lead up to Sunday’s playoff game against the Saints. Bears head coach Matt Nagy – while not directly naming Gardner-Johnson – said Sunday that the coaching staff took 10 to 15 minutes out of its day Wednesday to show the Bears clips of “a particular player” agitating opponents.
For that message not to get through is disappointing.
“When you do that, I think it’s a valuable lesson for our guys,” Nagy said. “We already knew going into this thing about some of that.”
Gardner-Johnson is known to do his share of talking on the field. Even his own teammate, receiver Michael Thomas, reportedly punched him in a practice earlier this season. The extra messaging from the coaches still didn’t get through to Miller, it appears.
Miller was not made available for comment following the game Sunday. He was asked about Gardner-Johnson on Thursday prior to the game.
“We’re just going to play our game,” Miller said Thursday. “Guys like that do what they do, but your bark can’t be louder than your bite and it’s hard to bite. So I’m not worried about that.”
After missing a Week 17 contest, Gardner-Johnson came off the reserve/COVID-19 list prior to the playoffs. The Bears knew he would likely be back on the field Sunday.
The players were well aware of what could happen if they fell for Gardner-Johnson’s antics.
“Every action has a reaction, and so I think it’s a valuable [lesson], especially when we’re low with numbers at the wide receiver position,” Nagy said, referencing the fact that receiver Darnell Mooney was out with an injury. “We’ve all got to understand we’ve got to be stronger and we can’t have that happen, and we’ve got to understand that. That’s two times that that happened, and we just can’t have it.”