Archive for Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Bucs bench Johnson for rest of season

Tampa Bay deactivates disgruntled wide receiver for remaining six games

November 19, 2003

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— Keyshawn Johnson will get his wish to leave Tampa Bay -- once the season is over.

Meantime, he won't even get to play.

The Buccaneers shelved their disgruntled standout receiver for the rest of the year Tuesday, saying he had become disruptive during a disappointing 4-6 start for the defending Super Bowl champions.

"For whatever reason he didn't want to be here. He let me know that some time after one of our early games," coach Jon Gruden said.

The Bucs said they would deactivate Johnson for the remaining six games. He will be paid his full salary and was not fined, general manager Rich McKay said.

Reached in Miami by the St. Petersburg Times, the two-time Pro Bowl selection said he was shocked by the move.

"I really don't know what to say. Basically, they are shutting me down for the rest of the season. I don't understand it," Johnson told the newspaper.

"I gave them everything I had between the white lines. I did everything they asked me to do. But it's OK, I'll continue to work out and stay in shape and look forward to playing somewhere else next year."

Johnson is the Bucs' third-leading receiver this season with 45 catches for 600 yards and three touchdowns.

McKay said he spoke with Johnson's agent, Jerome Stanley, and "we agreed that it will not be necessary for him to be present at our facility for the remainder of the year."

Johnson is midway through an eight-year, $56 million contract that included a $13 million signing bonus. He has been unhappy with his role in Gruden's offense and had been dropping not-so-subtle hints he did not wish to remain in Tampa Bay beyond 2003.

"We've worked hard to try to get him the football. ... We want our players to be happy. But unfortunately, it has festered for a while," Gruden said.

McKay said Johnson approached him and Gruden four or five weeks ago and was emphatic about his desire to leave.

"Following that, I really feel, Keyshawn's actions changed," McKay said. "His approach to us, to the organization and to the team, changed. A lot of mandatory workouts missed, a lot of team functions that are football related that were not attended and it became, in our mind, a problem. And one that needed to be addressed."

McKay declined to say how many workouts Johnson had skipped, or whether missing a mandatory team meeting Monday was the final straw.

"We're trying to win football games, and at some point you have to say this is not in the best interest of winning," McKay said. "We had another path we could have taken, which is to go down the disciplinary path. ... But this isn't about money. We're not trying to get any money back from Keyshawn. We're not trying to make an example."

Said Gruden: "It's nothing personal.

"Hopefully he finds what he's looking for. We're in the same search for excellence and answers to how to get out of the funk we're in."

Joe Jurevicius, who returned last week after being sidelined seven games because of a sprained knee, likely will start.

"I really enjoyed playing with Keyshawn for the last 21/2 years," Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson said. "We won a lot of games together and won a Super Bowl together. It's unfortunate that it had to end this way, and I wish him well."

Johnson was the first pick in the 1996 draft by the New York Jets. The Jets traded him to Tampa Bay three years ago.

He was the Bucs' leading receiver the past three seasons and helped them win their first Super Bowl in January.

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