According to ESPN’s NFL Sunday Countdown, Tampa Bay reached out to former Bucs receiver Keyshawn Johnson after losing wide receiver Maurice Stovall to a broken arm against the San Francisco in Week 16. ESPN’s NFL reporter Chris Mortensen spoke with Johnson, an ESPN football analyst, on Sunday morning about the Bucs’ inquiry.
Johnson, who played for the Buccaneers from 2000-2003 but was suspended for the final six games of the '03 season due to conduct detrimental to the team for sparring with head coach Jon Gruden, retired from the NFL prior to the start of the season after being released from Carolina.
“They actually talked to my agent, Jerome Stanley,” Johnson said on ESPN's pre-game show. “They never really actually talked to me. When all of the things broke and I got deactivated – I don’t want to say deactivated – but put on suspension or whatever you want to call it, I had always said if they pick up the phone and wanted to make a run for the playoffs that same year I wouldn’t have a problem with it. I don’t have a problem with Jon. George Steinbrenner hired Billy Martin seven times.”
Johnson obviously didn’t sign with the Buccaneers, but didn’t give any specific reason for declining. The Buccaneers may not have even extended Johnson an offer, and if they did, it might have been too low for Johnson’s liking.
“If you watched us hug each other in a game last year, [Gruden] said I was a heck of a football player. Come on, man! It’s football man, have fun.”
When asked by Mortensen if the fact that wide receiver Ike Hilliard is wearing his number 19 jersey was one of the reasons why Johnson didn’t sign with the Buccaneers.
“No, I could buy that back,” Johnson said.
In addition to losing Stovall for the year in Week 16, both Hilliard and Joey Galloway were nursing injuries over the past two weeks of the season, which prompted the Bucs to sign practice squad players Chad Lucas and Brian Clark to the active roster prior to the season finale against Carolina.
While in Tampa Bay, Johnson caught 298 passes for 3,828 yards with 17 touchdowns. Johnson caught a touchdown pass right before halftime of the 2002 NFC Championship Game at Philadelphia to help give Tampa Bay a 17-10 lead at the half. Johnson helped Tampa Bay win Super Bowl XXXVII the following week against Oakland.
In 2001, Johnson caught 106 passes, which set a team record for most receptions by a Buccaneer in a single season, for 1,266 yards and one touchdown. He also posted 76 catches for 1,088 yards and five touchdowns during Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl run. In his first year in Tampa Bay, Johnson caught 71 passes for 874 yards and scored eight touchdowns.
The Bucs were not immediately available to comment on this report, which aired on ESPN just one hour before kickoff for the Bucs-Giants playoff game at Raymond James Stadium.
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