SAEN | Johnson shakes off rust at training camp
Keyshawn's Struggles: Johnson shakes off rust at training camp
Web Posted: 08/04/2004 12:00 AM CDT
Express-News Staff Writer
OXNARD, Calif. Dallas Cowboys coach Bill Parcells never has to worry about whether Keyshawn Johnson is paying attention to what he says.
Let me tell you something about the kid, and I say this respectfully and you would probably never guess this, but he's a very good listener, Parcells said. When you are talking seriously, he gets it. When you are kidding around, you might not get a word in edgewise. But when you are talking business, he listens.
And lately it's been pretty much all business between Parcells and the outspoken wide receiver.
Since camp started Saturday, Johnson has struggled to regain the form that made him one of the NFL's top wideouts. Hoping to speed the process along, Parcells has directed daily tongue-lashings at Johnson, who hasn't played in a game since Nov. 16.
He didn't play a lot of football last year, Parcells said. I don't want to say he's rusty, but he needs what every guy needs. He needs timing, he needs to get used to his quarterback, he needs to refamiliarize himself with the offense. And we ask him to do quite a few things in our offense, so he's got that mental thing on him, too.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers deactivated the three-time Pro Bowl selection for the final six games last season after he said he didn't want to play for coach Jon Gruden.
I've still got a lot of work ahead of me, Johnson said. I haven't played football in nine months or whatever it's been, so I'm kind of getting used to playing again. I didn't know it was going to take this long to get started again. As a week goes by, I'll get better. Then I'll be able to fine tune my art the closer we get to the season.
Johnson does post-practice work each day. Parcells said it is something the former USC standout has done throughout his nine-year career.
The Cowboys acquired Johnson in a March trade that sent wide receiver Joey Galloway to the Buccaneers. Johnson received a four-year contract worth $20 million after moving to Dallas.
The player is a grinder, Parcells said. He gets ready to play in these games by constant hard work, repetition and post-practice play. He doesn't come off the practice field early. That's how he gets himself ready to go and that's the kind of guy he is. He recognizes and knows that. I don't have to tell him to do that.
He needs to go through the process. He's not going to be at the top of his game unless he plays and reps.
Johnson began his career with the New York Jets, who made him the No. 1 overall pick in the 1996 draft. Parcells arrived the next year and watched Johnson catch 242 passes for 3,264 yards and 23 touchdowns in 1997-99.
The chance to play again for Parcells is what attracted Johnson to the Cowboys.
I don't want to have to play for another coach, Johnson told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. I don't want to go through that crap again. I don't want to have to deal with people coming in and trying to change my game, people who don't know me and whose motives I don't trust.
I know Bill. I am happy now. My goal is to play as long as he coaches.
Although he's paying for it now, Johnson said doesn't regret having forced Tampa Bay to deactivate him.
I could care less, Johnson said. I got $3.5 million to sit out.
Such brashness is vintage Johnson, who has never been afraid to speak his mind.
He hasn't changed a bit, said quarterback Vinny Testaverde, who threw passes to Johnson when they were with the Jets. Same ability, same great hands and he can still go across the middle and make the tough catches. He's going to be a big asset to this club.
Said Johnson: I am the same guy. Nothing's changed. The same way I ran 10 years ago is the same way I run now. Guys like me, we don't slow down. We just keep playing.