Chad Johnson Shannon Sharpe Nightcap Podcast Credit: Nightcap on YouTube

Chad Johnson was on the receiving end of criticism throughout his NFL career, and the longtime Cincinnati Bengals receiver turned football podcaster came to the defense of fellow wideout Jerry Jeudy on Friday.

Jeudy made news during Thursday Night Football when analyst Steve Smith told a story of criticizing Jeudy and Jeudy responding disrespectfully. In return, Smith went scorched earth on Jeudy during NFL Network’s pregame show.

Weighing in on his YouTube show Nightcap with Shannon Sharpe, Johnson acknowledged modern NFL players have a harder time taking criticism than his generation or Sharpe’s. But he also took issue with Smith’s delivery and praised Jeudy’s talent.

“It probably wouldn’t go (well) for many players when they hear a former player talk about them that way,” Johnson said.

“Knowing Steve and how he is, he’s a straight shooter. He’s going to tell you how it is based on how he feels and based on the production that you’ve done to this point.”

Smith insisted live on NFL Network that he intended to have a face-to-face conversation with Jeudy to clear the air and pay him a compliment for his play after previously criticizing the former Alabama wideout.

But Johnson believes there’s more to the story.

“If it was fair, there would be no reason for (Jeudy) to be mad,” Johnson said. “He’s mad for a reason.”

Most of the time it might feel silly for a football show like Nightcap to spend 20 minutes on pregame drama rather than the actual NFL game that just happened. But the Chiefs routed the Broncos, and the Jeudy-Smith feud is right in the sweet spot for Johnson and Sharpe.

Johnson was a receiver with several peaks and valleys in his career. He also comes from South Florida just like Jeudy. And of course he and Sharpe both know what it takes to be successful pass-catchers in the NFL while dealing with media scrutiny.

At the same time, Sharpe addressed the elephant in the room of race. Sharpe acknowledged the disagreement between Jeudy and Smith feels different to both parties because they are both Black men from the same NFL receiver fraternity. It likely felt to Jeudy like Smith crossed a line.

Sharpe pointed out that he has had to navigate that for years in media, and Johnson discussed his adjustment to a similar reality recently since launching Nightcap.

Sharpe also said there’s a double standard for criticism among fellow athletes.

“When a white analyst criticizes a white player, they don’t ever say, ‘oh, you’re trying to bring me down,'” Sharpe explained.

Jeudy is in a tough spot with a quarterback on the downswing and a losing team. Still, NFL players like Johnson aren’t fully in support of his response to Smith, meaning he still has something to prove early in his career.

[Nightcap on YouTube]

About Brendon Kleen

Brendon is a Media Commentary staff writer at Awful Announcing. He has also covered basketball and sports business at Front Office Sports, SB Nation, Uproxx and more.