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Once he realized he wasn’t going to be able to make wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson happy, Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden did everything in his power to get rid of the disgruntled receiver.

First, Gruden deactivated Johnson for the final six games of the 2003 regular season. Then, Gruden and Bucs general manager Bruce Allen traded Johnson to the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for WR Joey Galloway, a roster move that caused Tampa Bay to take a $7 million salary cap hit this season.

Despite doing all of those things, Johnson just won’t go away.

Ever since he was traded back in March, Johnson has bashed Gruden every chance he’s gotten. Most of those opportunities have come when members of the media inquire about the Gruden-Keyshawn conflict, but just because questions are asked doesn’t mean Johnson needs to rehash old news.

Gruden has not commented on any of the charges made by Johnson this offseason, or the ones he made to Sports Illustrated last week.

No one knows for sure who was right and who was wrong in the whole Gruden-Keyshawn feud. My guess is that both parties had a hand in the arranged marriage that ended in divorce, but at least Gruden has moved on. Johnson, on the other hand, has not.

Gruden probably won’t respond to Johnson’s comments, but this column was written in an effort to fire back at Keyshawn on behalf of Gruden and everyone else who is sick and tired of hearing the broken record that continues to play in Dallas.

Before we get to the controversial comments Johnson made to SI, let’s revisit some Keyshawn history.

Despite all of the “Meshawn” comments that were made before and after the New York Jets traded Keyshawn to the Buccaneers in exchange for two first-round draft picks, I gave Johnson the benefit of the doubt. I knew he could be one heckuva player, but I wanted to believe that he was a guy that was selfish because he wanted to win, not because he was truly egocentric.

Johnson landed in Tampa Bay in March of 2000, and I stopped buying what Keyshawn was trying to sell the fans and the media a little over two and a half years later.

The Bucs had played and soundly defeated the visiting Atlanta Falcons on Dec. 7, 2002. Wide receivers Keenan McCardell and Joe Jurevicius had each caught two touchdown passes in that contest en route to a 34-10 win. The Bucs had improved their regular season record to 10-3 and they were in first place in the NFC South Division.

A few days after that big win, Keyshawn discussed how he wasn’t getting enough balls thrown his way with a local newspaper, which published a story that stated as much. From that point forward, I realized that Keyshawn Johnson was an extremely selfish player and a malcontent.

I remember when Keyshawn launched a verbal assault on Gruden in a confrontational manner on Monday Night Football in Sept. 2002. That, of course, was the game in which the Bucs defeated the St. Louis Rams, 26-14. The Bucs had improved to 2-1 on the season and all but one person was celebrating on the Bucs sideline. You can probably guess who that one person was.

Gruden even attempted to make amends with Keyshawn for the sideline dispute by going up and hugging him, but Johnson wouldn’t have it. He wanted to pout, and pout he did.

Not only was it disrespectful for Keyshawn to confront his head coach like that, but if he wanted to act like that, the least he could do was be consistent. I mean, where the hell was Keyshawn when Clyde Christensen and Les Steckel were calling plays?

Ah, but Keyshawn didn’t have as big of a gripe with those two playcallers since they were feeding him the ball.

Funny how we didn’t hear too much out of Keyshawn’s mouth during the 2001 offseason. The Bucs had went 10-6 in 2000 and were eliminated in the first round of the NFC playoffs. But Johnson was a happy camper since he had hauled in a career-high 106 passes that season.

Of course, out of all of those catches, only one of them was made in the end zone for a score. Next to Tampa Bay’s infamous kickoff return without a touchdown statistic, that’s got to be the most hideous stat in franchise, and perhaps NFL history.

As for Keyshawn’s latest comments as reported by Sports Illustrated, we’ll address those on an individual basis.

“Gruden wanted to show everybody that this was his team. 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.”

Respect? How about showing some respect for the coach that helped you win a Super Bowl?

“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. 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.”

Don’t flatter yourself, Keyshawn. I’ve got news for you. Those coaches don’t want you, either.

“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?”

You’re right, of course. How dare Coach Gruden attempt to make his malcontent wide receiver a happy one.

“Why is (Warren Sapp) 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?”

That’s a bit hypocritical, don’t you think? Why are you still worried about the Bucs, Keyshawn?

In addition to calling Ronde Barber a “Uncle Tom”, Keyshawn said he would “have words” with Barber the next time he saw him. But there’s really no need to “have words” with Ronde, Keyshawn. Yes, Ronde has a small role in Gruden’s offense, but it’s not at the quarterback position, so he won’t be able to get you the damn ball. Sorry.

Whether it’s New York Jets WR Wayne Chrebet, Gruden, Sapp or Barber, I’m convinced Keyshawn will always need to have a beef with someone or something.

And if you’ve got that big of a beef with Gruden, why don’t you give back the Super Bowl ring he helped you win in 2002?

You got what you wanted, Keyshawn. You’re in Dallas and you’re playing for your kind of head coach, a guy who understands you in a way Gruden didn’t.

But you had better start concerning yourself with your new team. In case you didn’t notice, the Dallas Cowboys are 0-1. But you’d probably have to flip over your Week 1 stat sheet (nine catches for 111 yards) to see that.

Your message, whatever it is, is old news. You’re no longer in a red and pewter uniform, and you can no longer consider yourself a failed experiment in Gruden’s laboratory. You’re with the Cowboys now. You have a star on your helmet, and it’s time for you stop talking and start playing like one.


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