He’s developed a reputation in the league as one of the Saints’ loudest and most provocative trash talkers, but he’ll have to hold himself back this season. With the NFL cracking down on “taunting” in 2021, Gardner-Johnson had some red-hot words to say about the stricter rules put into place.
He recently told Katherine Terrell of The Athletic:
"“To be real, the rule is bulls—t. Excuse my language, but you can’t stop the emotional players from being who we are. Not me, who WE are. A lot of players wear their emotions on their sleeves….It is what it is.”"
The NFL must have expected at least some backlash about the new taunting rule that has caused many to label the NFL as the “No Fun League.”
To be clear, the rule had already existed, but the league is now informing officials to strictly enforce it. Consequences include the automatic ejection of players who receive two taunting penalties in a game, fines, and suspensions.
Maybe Gardner-Johnson could have phrased things a little less…derogatory. But he’s just blowing off steam, as one might expect for a player with his reputation.
In 2020, Gardner-Johnson had beef with Chicago Bears wide receiver Javon Wims, who punched the Saints defensive back twice in the helmet during a game. Gardner-Johnson had earlier yanked off Wims’ mouthpiece, which could have been the first goading attempt.
New Orleans Saints safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson is pretty unhappy about the NFL’s taunting rule
But we’re not really interested in the specifics of a “He started it!” finger-pointing quarrel. Wims was later suspended two games for his actions, while Gardner-Johnson got hit with a fine.
Gardner-Johnson got into it again with another Bears wide receiver, Anthony Miller, in the NFC Wild card game when Miller was ejected after taking swing at Gardner-Johnson.
And if you thought Gardner-Johnson just had something against the Chicago Bears, you’re wrong. He’s been prone to stirring up drama throughout his entire pro career, even getting punched by his own teammate, Michael Thomas, during a practice last season.
Gardner-Johnson is entering his third season with New Orleans and brings more than just bad-mouthing swagger to the field. In 13 starts last season, he recorded one interception, one sack, four quarterback hits, 13 passes defended, and 66 combined tackles.
With Brian Poole’s recent injury and P-Rob’s retirement, Gardner-Johnson is one versatile member of the defensive backfield the Saints don’t want to lose.
No Saints coach has come out to agree or disagree with Gardner-Johnson’s comments, but they’ll likely still give Gardner-Johnson the license to instigate – as long as he doesn’t draw flags.
Ruffling the competition is part of the job, and it’s what Gardner-Johnson does best.