NEW YORK Controversial running back Larry Johnson signed a contract on Tuesday to represent the Cincinnati Bengals in a backup role, according to the league's official website (www.nfl.com).
Johnson was released by the Kansas City Chiefs eight days ago after being suspended for "conduct detrimental to the club."
"He's starting from scratch," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis told a news conference. "He knows what he has at stake and at risk. He gets an opportunity to start anew, just like anybody would.
"He's paid the price for what's gone on in his past, things he's said, things he's done. And it came to a finality in Kansas City. Now he's here, and it's a new start, a new opportunity. It's what we're all excited about."
The Bengals waived defensive tackle Orien Harris to open a spot on the roster for Johnson, who will give the AFC North leaders depth in the position for the rest of the season.
"He would be an insurance policy if something would happen to our guys, where he would have a chance to be active," Lewis said of Johnson who will be fourth on the depth chart.
"(His role would be as) a backup player on this team, doing all the things backup players do, and that's work their tails off in the kicking game and showing looks and so forth."
Johnson, 29, was released by the Chiefs on November 9 after his former club and the NFL had investigated alleged comments made by the player.
According to the Kansas City Star, Johnson posted demeaning comments, directed at Chiefs coach Todd Haley, on his Twitter feed hours after the 37-7 loss to the San Diego Chargers on October 25.
The newspaper reported Johnson also used derogatory language in a reply to a follower on Twitter and to a reporter.
A first-round pick by the Chiefs in the 2003 draft, Johnson set an NFL single-season record with 416 rushing attempts in 2006 when he set a franchise single-season mark with 1,789 rushing yards.
In 75 games with the Chiefs he rushed 1,375 times for 5,996 yards with 55 touchdowns.
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Greg Stutchbury; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)