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Bucs QB injured, status is unknown

Brad Johnson is sacked 5 times, knocked down 10 times, hit 9, intercepted once and bruises his left rib cage.

By RICK STROUD, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 21, 2002

Brad Johnson is sacked 5 times, knocked down 10 times, hit 9, intercepted once and bruises his left rib cage.

PHILADELPHIA -- Brad Johnson went down and might be out as Bucs quarterback.

Despite a bruised left rib cage, the starter did not leave until he doubled over in pain after throwing a pass in the fourth quarter of Tampa Bay's 20-10 loss to Philadelphia.

His status will not be known until later this week, but the injury appeared serious.

Backup Rob Johnson drove the Bucs 39 yards in 12 plays, giving Tampa Bay first and goal at the Eagles 6. But a penalty and three incompletions forced the Bucs to settle for Martin Gramatica's 29-yard field goal attempt, which he missed wide left.

After seeing his first playing time since preseason, Rob Johnson said he was excited about the possibility of starting Sunday's game at Carolina.

"Yeah, I'm fired up," he said. "Fired up. Not that (Brad) is hurt, but for the chance to play."

Considered one of the NFL's most fearless quarterbacks, Brad Johnson took a beating against the relentless blitzes of the Eagles.

He was sacked five times, knocked down 10, hit nine times and was intercepted once.

"I actually suffered (the injury) the first series of the game," he said. "It really didn't affect any of the throws I made during the course of the game except that last one. Keyshawn was wide open on a hot route and I just didn't have enough zip to get the ball out there to him. But it didn't mess up any of my other throws all day. It was just something I felt constantly, breathing, walking and taking a snap.

"I was doubled over just about when the ball was out of my hand. And Rob came in and played great."

Johnson said he is not sure when -- or if -- he will be able to practice. He has never had a similar rib injury in 11 NFL seasons.

"I'm going to be day to day," he said. "There's nothing we're going to do in the next few days and then see where I'm at Wednesday, Thursday and go from there. We won't make any decisions tonight.

"I haven't had anything like this before. I've played with a broken foot, I've played with a broken thumb. I've had a lot of different injuries like that, but nothing quite like this."

If nothing else, Rob Johnson's mobility might be a lift to the offense.

Tampa Bay was forced to use protection schemes that limited the number of receivers it could deploy against the Eagles.

"I think you can see we were in two tight ends, two backs a fair amount of time trying to neutralize it the best we could," Bucs coach Jon Gruden said. "You have to make some adjustments, but at the same time, you can't lock your doors and hide all day. Hell, you have to go play."

The pressure applied by the Eagles got to Brad Johnson when his fourth-quarter pass to Keyshawn Johnson was intercepted by cornerback Al Harris, setting up the touchdown run by Donovan McNabb that sealed the win.

"He's not getting time. It's the same thing when the ball got intercepted in Atlanta," Keyshawn Johnson said. "After that play, a lot of air went out of the balloon. We just tried to stay in it. There's nothing you can really say. It speaks for itself what happened on the field."

Rob Johnson said that despite failing to put points on the board he was pleased with the way the offense responded on his only series.

"I moved them down and we had a chance to score," he said. "We didn't punch it up for seven and missed a field goal, so we lost a lot of momentum. That's what happens. That gives the defense their edge because they know it's over with. Had we scored seven, I believe our defense would've held them to three-and-out and we were on our way to have a chance to win it or tie it."

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