Key's Day Overshadowed By Disappointing Defeat
The Tampa Tribune, published 3 November 2003

The 6-foot-4 wide receiver recoiled into his locker. His left foot touched the ground. His right rested in front of him as he sat on the locker's base and leaned against its side. He looked down and shook his head as media gathered. Keyshawn Johnson went on to say frustration is not a word he uses. He did not have to. His body language said it for him.

Only the disappointment had nothing to do with catches or anything else Johnson is maligned for allegedly wanting. He caught 10 passes for 124 yards Sunday against New Orleans. The Bucs lost, 17-14. His team lost. Johnson lost. ``Touching the ball makes a difference sometimes, but then in this case, we lost the football game,'' Johnson said. ``So, realistically, it doesn't really add up for me. I don't really give a [damn] about catching the football if we lose the football game. It would have been great if the score had been different, but that wasn't the case. Just got to find a way to win next week.''

Johnson had two catches in the past two games. Speculation swarmed after the eight-year pro expressed his admiration for former coach Bill Par cells entering last week's game against Dallas. His agent has even said Coach Jon Gruden too often ignores Johnson's abilities. But in arguably his best game this season, Johnson refuted any notion that he cares about anything but winning. ``You haven't heard me say a word about wanting the football,'' said Johnson, who was third on the team with 27 catches entering the game. ``That's all y'all talking. It ain't me. I haven't said anything. I just let you guys do the talking. You haven't heard Keyshawn Johnson say that he wants the football not one time, have you? You haven't heard me say a dang thing. I just go out and play. I do what they ask me to do. That's what I do.''

Johnson did it well against the Saints, catching the Bucs' first pass of the game and their last. ``I felt like we had some good looks, had some good opportunities,'' quarterback Brad Johnson said. ``He ran some great routes, and I feel like we connected. It wasn't like he was primary on all those receptions. Sometimes he was the second, third or fourth guy. He had a good day.''

And it appears Johnson's good days will continue to come with the Bucs unless the team is willing to absorb a hefty salary cap hit. His contract runs through 2007, and if any animosity exists within the organization about Johnson, there is little the Bucs can do about it in the form of a trade. ``We're not thinking about it,'' General Manager Rich McKay said. ``To trade a player that has as big a contract and the kind of signing bonus of a Keyshawn Johnson, the ramifications are enormous. It's not something that's easily done.''

Neither is losing, Johnson contended, even with a big receiving day. ``I haven't been frustrated at all,'' he said. ``I've just been going along with the flow. I do everything that's asked of me from a game-planning stand point. If they ask me to block, I block. If they ask me to run a route, I run a route. Obviously when you are winning football games, everything is hunky do ry. It doesn't matter. I don't really care. But when you're losing games, you want to try to help the team. It's not about any thing but trying to be a part in trying to help our football team move the ball and win football games. I don't use the word frustration.''