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Johnson, Buccaneers Can't Patch Things Up

Wide receiver, deactivated last week, says he'd still like to play for the team but doubts it will happen because a reconciliation with Gruden is unlikely.

November 24, 2003|Larry Stewart | Times Staff Writer

Keyshawn Johnson would still like to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the team that deactivated him last week.

"I'd get on a private jet tonight and go right back," he said during his guest appearance on Fox's NFL pregame show Sunday. He said he'd have no problem playing in tonight's game against the New York Giants.

But that is about as likely to happen as Johnson and Coach Jon Gruden's making amends. And that, Johnson said, isn't likely.

After the show, in an interview with The Times, Johnson was asked if he could ever envision a reconciliation with Gruden.

"I could say the sun is going to explode tomorrow," said Johnson. "You would say, 'That's not going to happen.' And then the sun does explode."

Johnson said he doesn't hold anything against Tampa Bay General Manager Rich McKay, or anyone else in the organization.

"McKay is just saying what he has to say," Johnson said.

On the Fox show, Terry Bradshaw said, "Aren't you embarrassed? If I were you, I'd be embarrassed."

Said Johnson: "I'm upset, but I don't know if I'm embarrassed because I know both sides played a part."

On the show, Johnson complained that Gruden didn't respect him, saying, "He has a way of demeaning your skills as a player."

Asked to expand on that after the show, Johnson, a Dorsey High graduate and former USC star, used former Inglewood High and current Boston Celtic star Paul Pierce as an example.

"If Paul Pierce is making a lot of shots and the team is winning, his coach wouldn't go to him and say, 'We want you to dribble and pass more.'

"As I said on the air, I'm not a home run hitter, at least not in this offense. I'm not a Randy Moss. But I'm a guy who can move the chains, and moving the chains is what it's all about."

Because he admitted on TV to being partially to blame, Johnson was asked what he had done wrong.

One thing he mentioned was that he should have told someone he would not be going to Tampa with the team following a game at San Francisco Oct. 19, a game the Buccaneers lost, 24-7.

He said his plan all along was to stay in the Bay Area. His former wife and their two children live in Pleasanton. "I had a teacher-parent conference scheduled for the next day," Johnson said.

"I didn't tell Gruden before the game because coaches don't want to hear those kinds of things before a game," he said. "After the game, I was upset. We had lost and I had one catch for four yards."

So he left without telling anyone.

He missed a non-mandatory practice that Monday, but Johnson denied he missed team meetings, as had been reported.

"I never missed a team meeting," he said. "I never missed a team meeting!" However, Johnson did admit to wearing flip-flops to a walk-through. "But I had done that before, and no one said anything to me," he said.

Johnson said once the Buccaneers decided to break ties, they had two choices -- to suspend him or deactivate him.

"They couldn't suspend me, because they had no reason to suspend me," he said. "So they deactivated me."

Johnson, who has a second home in Los Angeles, said he hopes to do more appearances for Fox. David Hill, the chairman of Fox Sports, and Scott Ackerson, the pregame producer, said that possibility will be discussed.

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