Former Tampa Bay wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson might be playing for the Dallas Cowboys, but he certainly hasn’t forgotten about the Buccaneers.
It’s no secret that Johnson became a disgruntled player and was deactivated by Bucs head coach Jon Gruden and former general manager Rich McKay with six games to go last season.
As a result of Johnson’s conduct, which was deemed detrimental to the team, Tampa Bay traded No. 19 to Dallas in exchange for Cowboys WR Joey Galloway last March and took a $7 million salary cap hit in the process.
Johnson was unhappy with the way Gruden was using him in his offense and wanted to be reunited with head coach Bill Parcells, whom he worked with when he played for the New York Jets.
Johnson got his wish, but judging by the comments he recently made to Sports Illustrated, he’s still got a beef with his former head coach.
“Gruden wanted to show everybody that this was his team,” Johnson told SI. “That’s the difference between him and a Bill Parcells. Parcells has a big ego but he’s not trying to be bigger than the Cowboys. In Tampa, Gruden ran the general manager [Rich McKay, now the general manager of the Atlanta Falcons] out of town. He could’ve at least shown some respect for the guy who built the franchise.”
According to SI’s article, Johnson, who has spoken out several times against Gruden since being shipped out of Tampa Bay, heard Gruden was talking badly about him at the Senior Bowl in January.
“I heard he was telling people I couldn’t play but it’s like I told him last year, there are only so many walls he can penetrate — and that’s with the people who know him,” Johnson told SI. “And the bottom line is that I wouldn’t want to play for (Seattle head coach) Mike Holmgren, (Philadelphia head coach) Andy Reid, (Green Bay head coach) Mike Sherman or anybody else who calls him a friend.
“He had the nerve to ask me once why I didn’t like him. I said, ‘Come on, m—– f—–. You know why I don’t like you.’ This is the same guy who dogged Tim Brown in meetings all year and then went out and signed him. Why would I want to be with a two-faced m—– f—– like that?”
Gruden isn’t the only one Johnson has a problem with. In the SI article, Johnson lashed out at Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber and former Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp, who has exchanged parting shots with Johnson a few times through the media ever since the two men became former teammates.
“Why is he still worried about me, especially when he knows his fat ass would’ve taken the same kind of money if he’d been deactivated, too?” Johnson said.
Last November, Barber publicly supported the team’s decision to deactivate Johnson for the rest of the 2003 season.
“It is what it is,” Barber told Pewter Report last November. “I’m not a personnel decision guy. They made it (that decision) in the best interest of the team, and, for one, I believe in everything my coaches and my owners tell me what is best for this team. I’ll leave it at that.
“It sends a message to Keyshawn, obviously. I don’t know what it does for the rest of the team. Obviously, we’re looking for decisions for the betterment of this team. That’s all I can worry about.”
Barber’s support for the team’s decision apparently rubbed Johnson the wrong way.
“Ronde Barber is an Uncle Tom,” Johnson told SI when asked about the comments the cornerback made last November. “They’ll cut him one day like they do everybody else but he’s trying to be political and kiss Gruden’s butt. This guy is 30 years old and he’s saying I’m affecting what he does.”
Johnson went on to say that he and Barber would “have words” about what the cornerback had said last year.
It didn’t take long for Barber to respond, though. During his weekly radio show on 620 WDAE “The Sports Animal”, Barber was asked for a response to Johnson’s controversial comments and delivered the following statement.
“I’m not into verbal sparring or whatever else,” said Barber on his show. “Keyshawn is not our problem anymore just as much as we’d like Warren Sapp and John Lynch to be here, they’re no longer on this football team. I could comment on a lot of people around the league and a lot of issues around the league, but that has nothing to do with my clubhouse. I consider myself a fairly focused guy, and I hate losing, plain and simple. That whole deal with Keyshawn last year — I’m a guy that calls it like I see it. I learned that from Herm Edwards when he was here. When you see something that’s not right and you get asked a question about it, I’m prepared to answer it.
“Warren said on a interview earlier this year that Keyshawn absolutely had to go because he no longer cared about being here. That attitude is contagious. It’s a filthy feeling, whether it’s the last guy on the roster or you’re the number one wide receiver, he just didn’t act like he wanted to be there. To me, attitude is everything. I think that’s why Jon and Rich (McKay) deactivated him — because he wasn’t putting a positive spin on what we had to do. We still had a lot of games left in the season when all of that went down. If you’re not going to take a positive approach, then what’s the use of being on the field?
“Him calling me Uncle Tom, I don’t know what that really means,” said Barber. “I’m definitely not a slave. I’m not kissing up to my head coach like he’s my master. Jon is my coach and I respect him as the leader of my football team. That’s all it is. I supported Jon’s decision because he’s the guy that’s leading me to where I want to go. I want to win a championship and Jon Gruden is my coach who will do that.”
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