Keyshawn Just Doing His Job
The Tampa Tribune, published 4 November 2002

Keyshawn Johnson donned a 1985 vintage Dominique Wilkins jersey Sunday after the Bucs' 38-24 win against Minnesota. Reminded of one Human Highlight Reel, someone asked Johnson to pick a favorite play from his nine-catch, 133-yard, two-touchdown day. Johnson didn't choose his first score, a 2-yard grab that prompted him to launch a perfect spiral into the club seats. He didn't choose his second, a 19-yard catch that forced him to slither between Vikings Corey Chavous and Ronnie Bradford to reach the end zone.

Johnson couldn't remember the specific play, but selected as his top moment a block he threw on a running play. ``I always do a lot away from the ball. It's nothing new,'' Johnson said. ``Y'all [the media] look at the numbers. Y'all are fantasy football geeks. I can go all season long without catching a pass. As long as we win, I'm doing something in our offense.''

Johnson had done plenty away from the ball before Sunday, but had done little in the end zone. Against the Vikings, he scored twice as many times as he did in all of 2001. So what constitutes a great game in the land of Keyshawn? ``When we win. Period,'' Johnson said. ``Because in some form or fashion, I've been a contributor.''

Johnson said he felt no extra pressure Sunday with receivers Keenan McCardell and Joe Jurevicius in street clothes on the sideline. In fact, Johnson believes his contribution Sunday affected the outcome no more or less than his two-catch, 21-yard performance in a 12-9 win against Carolina a week earlier. Johnson did not catch a pass against the Panthers until the game's 60th minute, when he followed a 12-yard slant with a foot-dragging 9-yard catch that helped set up the winning field goal.

To Johnson's credit, his attitude does not change whether he catches two passes or 200 passes. He still considers himself the best receiver in the NFL. Jon Gruden wishes Johnson could donate bravado to teammates the way others donate blood. ``I don't think Keyshawn needs more confidence,'' Gruden said. ``If anything, I try to suck some of that out of him and spread it to some of the other guys on the team.''

Johnson spread some of his happiness after his first touchdown since Oct. 6 against Atlanta. After he caught a wide- open second-quarter pass to give the Bucs a 23-0 lead, Johnson heaved the ball deep into the stands. The display tickled the ribs - even the one he cracked Oct. 20 against Philadelphia - of Tampa Bay quarterback Brad Johnson, who said he could see the wheels turning in Gruden's head after the coach learned his receiver could throw such a tight spiral. ``If quarterbacks keep going down, you never know. [Keyshawn Johnson] could be back there,'' Brad Johnson said.

If that happened, the Bucs likely would boast the league's top quarterback and receiver, at least in Keyshawn Johnson's mind. ``It all comes down to what the outside perception is of a person and the numbers,'' Johnson said. ``I'm still always going to feel like I'm the best receiver in the league. Remember that.''