Monday, July 29, 2002
Johnson bets the house on more TD catches in 2002
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Keyshawn Johnson was in a good
mood and even questions about what's been portrayed as a rift
between him and Warren Sapp couldn't ruin his day.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers opened training camp Monday with almost
as much attention being paid to the relationship between the team's
biggest stars than the first practices under coach Jon Gruden.
Sapp has been critical of Johnson's decision to spend much of
the offseason in California rather than working out regularly with
teammates in Tampa.
Johnson said he won't be drawn into a spat over his work ethic
or his career-long routine of training on the West Coast where he
lives and has extensive business interests.
"I play football and work. That's all I care about,'' Johnson
said. "I enjoy it and love it. I'm happy. I get a hug every day.
There are no sad feelings in the Johnson house.''
Sapp has not granted any interviews since reporting to camp
Sunday. Gruden, meanwhile, shrugged off questions about the
relationship between the players.
"The goal is for everybody to love each other in this world.
But at the same time, we're here to concentrate on football and
that's what we're going to do,'' Gruden said.
"I've seen no disrespect between ballplayers since I've been in
Tampa and I don't expect to see any. How good of a friend you and I
are or he and I are is something I feel should remain in the
clubhouse. I'm confident both of these guys are going to be leaders
for us, are going to be clutch playmakers for us and we'll see what
Johnson said he's more concerned with getting acclimated to a
new offense than making an issue of how others perceive him and
The receiver was virtually a one-man show a year ago, catching
106 passes for 1,266 yards. But he only scored one touchdown and
jokingly said Monday that he's willing to wager his home that that
won't happen again.
Not with Gruden calling the plays.
"I've got a nice house. Want to bet it?'' Johnson said. "I'll
score more touchdowns the first half of the season than I did all
of last year.''
In addition to installing a new system, Gruden brought in eight
veteran free agents during the offseason to upgrade the offensive
line and revamp a receiving corps that now includes Keenan
McCardell and Joe Jurevicius.
McCardell has been one of the NFL's most productive receivers
over the past six years with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jurevicius
is coming off the most productive season as a pro with the New York
The newcomers should take the burden off Johnson to carry the
"I've been in a lot different systems and I've done well in all
of them. I think this is just one more,'' said Johnson, who played
the first four years of his career with the New York Jets. "I
think it'll make me a much better player in terms of what I've done
in Tampa. I've been pretty exciting, but I think it'll make me a
little more explosive now that I can do a lot more catching and
running than I have in the past.''
In other words, he may not catch as many passes, but he expects
to be more productive in 2002.
McCardell, who thrived in an offense that also featured Jimmy
Smith in Jacksonville, is confident he and Johnson will form one of
the better tandems in the league.
"I didn't come here to take any of the glory from Key. He's his
own man and I'm my own man, too,'' McCardell said.
"I've built my reputation around being able to make plays and
making clutch catches and so has he. ... It's great to have two
guys that can make plays. The quarterback can look either way and
both guys can make plays.''