Johnson hopes performance speaks loudly, too
10:37 PM CDT on Thursday, August 26, 2004
BY TODD ARCHER / The Dallas Morning News
IRVING – Guess which game Keyshawn Johnson thinks is the best of his career? Go ahead, guess.
Maybe it was his 194-receiving yard effort to open the 1999 season against New England for Bill Parcells' New York Jets? No. How about his 12-catch game against Chicago in 2001 with Tampa Bay? Uh-uh. OK, it has to be one of his six two-touchdown games in his career, right? Try again.
Johnson, the Give-Me-the-Damn-Ball receiver, will tell you it was a measly two-catch, 20-yard game with a touchdown in 1998 against Atlanta.
That's it – two catches, 20 yards.
Why does Johnson believe that was his best game? The Jets ran the ball 34 times for 119 yards. They held the ball for 32 minutes, 4 seconds and won, 28-3.
And Johnson blocked linebacker Cornelius Bennett here, there and everywhere for Curtis Martin to run for 101 yards.
Still, he wants the ball.
"That's not a perception, that's the truth," Parcells said. "The difference between him and all of those other guys that are always mouthing off about catching the ball is he'll do all of the dirty work, too. You watch him. Keep your eye on him. He does some pretty good work when it's not a passing situation."
The Cowboys, however, traded for Johnson this off-season to bring an element to an offense that struggled last year – third-down proficiency. Through two preseason games, two of his five catches have gone for a first down.
"I'm still learning," Johnson said. "This is an old 'new' offense to me. There's certain things they've tweaked. My reps are like, I hate to say a waste of time, but for me, I've got to be in there all the time. But I understand the process. I've got to be patient. I've got to wait. Hopefully by the time we get to game one, I'll be ready to do everything."
Parcells called Johnson rusty during the June minicamp and earlier in training camp he said Johnson needed more work. Parcells had to remind Johnson to take cold pools after practice to preserve his legs, so he did it. He also spent time before most of the morning practices in Oxnard, Calif., catching passes from the Jugs machine.
"Let me tell you something about the kid, and you would probably never guess this, but he's a very good listener," Parcells said. "He gets it. When you are talking seriously, he gets it. When you are kidding around, you might not get a word in edge wise, but when you are talking business, he listens."
That might sound strange to people in Tampa Bay, especially coach Jon Gruden, who could never get a read on Johnson. Things became so bad that the Buccaneers deactivated Johnson for the final six games.
For the first time the game was taken away from Johnson, who went to Fox's TV booth.
"I just missed the fact that I couldn't compete against the opposition," Johnson said. "I didn't get the opportunity to do that the last six weeks of the season. I was competing with Terry [Bradshaw] to see how much time I'd get on the air. That's the only part I missed."
Johnson considers this year his eighth season, not his ninth, choosing to forget the 45-catch, 600-yard performance he had in 10 games last season. He believes the drop in production had more to do with circumstance than ability.
He also feels no pressure in being the player he was in his first tenure with Parcells. But he also believes this:
"I'm coming up from the grave," Johnson said.