Brad Johnson thinks everything is in place
By RICK STROUD, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 1, 2002
TAMPA -- To be a contender in Major League Baseball, you need two All-Star starting pitchers and a closer in the bullpen.
To be a contender in the NFL, you need Pro Bowl players at quarterback, running back and receiver.
That's what excites Brad Johnson about the Bucs.
He believes that in running back Michael Pittman, Tampa Bay may have a final piece to its playoff puzzle.
"(Garrison) Hearst, (Terrell) Owens, (Jeff) Garcia. (Marshall) Faulk, (Torry) Holt, (Kurt) Warner," Johnson said. "Every Pro Bowl. (Antonio) Freeman, (Ahman) Green, (Brett) Favre. You've got to be loaded in at least three areas. And I think Michael Pittman is ready for a breakout year. Then it comes down to, can you run the ball and can you protect?"
THROW OUT THE RECORDS: It's an axiom that the preseason means nothing.
You can bet the Bucs' 3-1 preseason record won't mean much to the Saints on Sept. 8. In fact, coach Jon Gruden said it can be difficult on starters because of their limited playing time.
"The preseason, to some degree, is very distracting," Gruden said. "It's difficult on quarterbacks because it's three series this week and two series next week. It's difficult from a concentration standpoint, in the overall picture. I think Keyshawn Johnson, (Keenan) McCardell and (Joe) Jurevicius have bonded a little bit here. I think some of our new players have come together. I think they are very excited about what lies ahead."
GETTING TO KNOW YOU: Keyshawn Johnson did not play much in the preseason, and his numbers bear that out: four catches for 49 yards, including a 20-yarder at Jacksonville.
He figures to be more productive in the regular season. But Johnson said Gruden is still learning that he can do more in the offense.
"He doesn't know me, not at all," Johnson said. "He's still trying to learn. There's a lot of stuff that he doesn't know I can do. There's certainly things that he's not aware certain players can do to be able to say, "This is where I need to put him on this particular play.' And that always happens with new coaches."
The addition of McCardell allowed Johnson to return to his familiar position at weakside receiver, where he thrived for four seasons with the Jets.
"You haven't seen me line up in the slot one time this preseason. Never," Johnson said. "Wait until the season starts and you look up and I'm in the slot every play. He's going to move me around a lot."
NO WORRIES: Defensive tackle Warren Sapp was held out of two preseason games to give nagging injuries to his wrist and knee a chance to heal. But Gruden has no doubt that No. 99 is headed for a monster year.
"He's had a tremendous offseason and training camp," Gruden said. "I'll be very shocked and disappointed and surprised if he doesn't have a tremendous year here."
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