Getting called out by former NFL star receiver Chad Johnson was a welcome break from the monotony of training camp for Tyron Brackenridge.
Johnson, now with the Montreal Alouettes, took aim at the Saskatchewan Roughriders safety Tuesday on Twitter. Brackenridge was still chuckling about it Wednesday.
"Was it entertaining?" Brackenridge asked with a laugh during a telephone interview. "I had fun with it.
"When you're dealing with the pressure of training camp, these two-a-days and meetings, it's good to have a little laugh here and there. He felt like I was the one he wanted to call out, I just entertained his antics."
It began innocently enough on Twitter when a fan asked Johnson, a popular social media figure with 3.6 million followers, which team was he most looking forward to facing this season.
"#41 from the Rough Riders," Johnson tweeted, referencing Brackenridge.
After Brackenridge said, "Can't wait!" Johnson turned up the heat, tweeting: "I will run through you or around you, whichever you prefer."
Brackenridge responded: "your cfl career will be short messing with me! You better ask your teammates or better yet find out for yourself."
Johnson countered: "They speak highly of you but you'll be dealt with."
Added Brackenridge, "they speak highly of me for a reason. It's a thin line between tough & stupid. If your not looking for #41 you'll regret it.."
The colourful Johnson, in his first CFL season following a two-year hiatus from football, certainly didn't select a shrinking violet.
The six-foot, 190-pound Brackenridge was a league all-star last year and voted the CFL's hardest hitter by his peers. Johnson referenced that when a fan asked who Brackenridge was.
"The person who'll force me to keep my head on a swivel August 16," Johnson tweeted.
Johnson ended the lively banter asking his supporters to follow Brackenridge.
"I need at least 2 million of you to follow the homie @Tbrack41 please," Johnson tweeted.
Brackenridge, 29, who has over 7,000 Twitter followers, said Johnson's comments were unsolicited although the two have a history. They've faced each other in the NFL and worked out together during the off-season with the same trainer.
"We don't really know each other personally, like buddy buddy," Brackenridge said. "But at the end of the day, things like this make it fun to play the game and look forward to . . . it's all fun and games."
That is until June 29, when Saskatchewan opens its season hosting the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in a Grey Cup rematch. Brackenridge hasn't circled Aug. 16 on his calendar — when Montreal visits Regina — because as defending champions the Riders are expecting the best from every opponent this season.
"Yes, we have a target on our back but we must defend the title week in and week out and just continue to be consistent and play like pros," he said. "That's what keeps me on my toes . . . knowing I must continue to elevate my game."
However, Brackenridge appreciates the recognition he received from Johnson.
"It feels good to know you have respect around the league but you have to continue to earn that every week," he said. "Each year is a new year, you constantly have to get better otherwise somebody will come in and try to take your job or expose you."
As for facing Johnson, Brackenridge will worry about that in August. The two teams will meet again in October in Montreal.
"I approach every game the same . . . like it's a championship game," Brackenridge said. "I'm a competitor and I want to win each game, I want to win every play.
"When we play them, I'll have the same mentality as I do when we play Hamilton in Week 1."
Johnson's tweets did prompt one Riders' fan to offer on Twitter a $100 donation to charity if Brackenridge legally hits Johnson hard enough to separate him from the football.
The Riders team that will defend the Grey Cup title will differ vastly from the one that won it. Among those departing are running back Kory Sheets (Oakland, NFL), receivers Weston Dressler (Kansas City, NFL) and Geroy Simon (retired), linebackers Rey Williams (retired) and Craig Butler (Hamilton, free agent) and defensive tackle Keith Shologan (Ottawa expansion draft).
"Unfortunately, it's the nature of the game," Brackenridge said. "Each year you're going to have new personnel, you've just got to make it work.
"Training camp is about building the chemistry to goes on throughout the season."
Brackenridge was a key contributor last year with 48 tackles, a league-high five forced fumbles and three interceptions. He was a league all-star and voted the Riders' top defensive player.
Brackenridge spent time in the NFL with Kansas City ('07-'08), the New York Jets ('09) and Jacksonville ('09-'10). Entering his fourth CFL campaign, Brackenridge says he's very comfortable with the nuances of Canadian football.
"I've learned a lot in this league," he said. "I was a little raw when I first came in but now the game is normal again . . . I'd say I'm pretty comfortable right now."
And that includes life off the field as Brackenridge was married this off-season.
"Everything is complete," he said. "They (wife, Christine, and three-year-old daughter Brooklyn) make it fun for me every day.
"I'm very blessed and thankful and enjoy this game with a smile on my face."
He's also thankful to be playing in Saskatchewan, home to the CFL's most passionate fans. Last November, a loud, predominantly green gathering of 44,710 watched the Riders defeat Hamilton 45-23 for just their fourth CFL title and first at Mosaic Stadium.
"Ill tell you what, they make it extremely fun to play this game," Brackenridge said of Rider Nation. "They make it easier for guys like me who are away from home and our families.
"Everything we do is dedicated to them as well as our families. It ('13 Grey Cup) is very special to people born and raised in this province . . . that moment will live on forever."