TAMPA - Jon Gruden does not have the title of general manager, but he may have acted like one last week.
Keyshawn Johnson said a team official told him Gruden gained the support of owners before informing GM Rich McKay of his decision to shelve the Pro Bowl receiver for the final six games.
If true, Gruden overstepped his boundaries as coach, since all personnel moves fall under the responsibilities of McKay.
Considering other arguments Gruden lost over personnel - not trading for Rams tackle Kyle Turley or signing Emmitt Smith - perhaps the Bucs coach worried McKay would refuse to sit Johnson.
Gruden and McKay say they were always in agreement. "I know how this sounds, but we tried to be as completely honest as we could in the press conference about what happened and when it happened," McKay said.
Asked if he broke with procedure, Gruden said, "I made them (the owners) aware we had a festering problem."
The Bucs official told Johnson he believes McKay will leave his GM post after this season because of constant head-butting over personnel with Gruden. Gruden says he doesn't want to be a GM, but that would not preclude him from wanting to have someone of his choosing in that position.
"I don't have anything but nice things to say about Rich," Johnson said. "He traded for me. But this doesn't sound like a deal Rich would make. Maybe he just doesn't plan on being here next year. Who knows."
Johnson plans to share his view of events that likely ended his career with the Bucs today on the NFL on Fox.
Johnson also plans to defend himself on reports of divisive behavior: missing two curfews, blowing off a mandatory workout the day after the Packers handed them a third straight defeat and failing to fly home on the team charter from San Francisco after catching one pass in a 24-7 loss to the 49ers.
During one of those missed curfews, Johnson said he was with several team captains, including Mike Alstott and Warren Sapp, who stayed out until dawn one night during the preseason in Tokyo. Johnson said Simeon Rice also blew off the Monday workout; and Johnson said he remained in the San Francisco Bay area without permission for a parent-teacher conference.
When Johnson did return from San Francisco, he told McKay he would not play for Gruden in 2004.
"He's like a used car salesman," Johnson said. "I didn't buy into what he was selling."
McKay, who traded two No. 1 picks for Johnson and restructured his contract this offseason, said the receiver crossed the line by becoming a distraction in the locker room.
No one is holding a telethon for Johnson, who got what he wanted. He'll earn more than $20-million for 31/2 seasons in Tampa. He will be released before March 1 when the team owes him a $1-million roster bonus.
The Cowboys, Patriots and Panthers are his top three choices. Johnson played for Cowboys coach Bill Parcells with the Jets. Pats coach Bill Belichick was the Jets defensive coordinator. And Panthers offensive coordinator Dan Henning held a similar position with the Jets.
"I'd be stupid to play for someone I don't have a history with," Johnson said.
WHO'S NEXT?: Kenyatta Walker will start at right tackle Monday. But a few more penalties, and he will find himself on the bench - or worse. "You can track the history of any player in the NFL and say, "How many penalties did you commit last year?' It's an easy statistic to find," Gruden said. "How many penalties did you commit the next year and the next year. You can't commit penalties in a frequent manner in the NFL and keep playing. If you're doing it year in a year out, it says something about your discipline or your ability to play in this league as a starter."