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Shaun King's reaction

The incumbent starter says he understands and will use the acquisition to push himself harder.

By ROGER MILLS

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 6, 2001


TAMPA -- He has been working out in New Orleans for the past two weeks, but the world of Bucs quarterback Shaun King is far from the Big Easy.

But King said Monday night he doesn't plan on letting Brad Johnson's arrival impede his progress or attitude.

"I don't take things like that personally," said King, who is at a speed and agility clinic. "I'm not afraid of some competition in any shape or form. It's up to me to go out and do everything I have to do to get better and be a starting quarterback."

King, a second-round draft pick two years ago, was propelled into the limelight late in his rookie season after injuries to Trent Dilfer and Eric Zeier made him a starter. He piloted the Bucs to the NFC Championship Game but fell under scrutiny after failing to throw a touchdown pass in the game.

Last season, coach Tony Dungy anointed King the starter from the beginning. But the offense, under new offensive coordinator Les Steckel, never achieved the consistency it needed to make a Super Bowl push.

The focus became sharper on King, who had a mixture of brilliant and dull moments throughout 2000. After King failed to get the team into the end zone in a 21-3 loss to the Eagles in the NFC wild-card playoff game at Philadelphia, talk of needing quarterback help began heating up, culminating with the acquisition of Johnson.

King said he understands.

"That's what teams do in the off-season," King said. "You have to approach it like you have to control what only you can control. I have to get in good shape and show them that I'm worthy. You're going to get your critics, but look at my record (15-9). It speaks for itself. Yes, there are things that I have to improve on, and I think (Johnson and I) are going to help each other. But I see myself as a person who's going to come out and compete and fight for my job."

Receiver Keyshawn Johnson, whom the Bucs acquired last off-season to boost a dismal passing attack, said Monday that King's development may have been slowed by circumstances.

"You don't like to see a guy be put in a situation like that, but he was forced into a starting role and probably (was) not as ready as we might have all thought," Johnson said. "I'm sure the coaches looked at the film, because he had some shining moments, and said it's probably best to let him learn from somebody and give him an opportunity to have success in this league instead of being one of the players that fail when they get pushed into starting roles."

Brad Johnson threw for 2,505 yards with 11 touchdowns and 15 interceptions with the Redskins last season while splitting time with Jeff George.

"I'm glad we're able to add a player of his caliber to the group of quarterbacks we have," Keyshawn Johnson said. "He's a proven winner, and he's played in playoff games. I don't know what happed last year in Washington, but I would think he doesn't have to worry about that situation here in Tampa."

Dungy, who developed a solid relationship with Brad Johnson during his days as the Vikings' defensive coordinator, said his familiarity with Johnson played an important role in getting the quarterback.

"We think he's a high-caliber person and a great player," Dungy said in a statement. "He was very interested in coming to the Bucs, and that helped make this happen. I'm very excited that we have added another great player to our offensive arsenal."

As word of the Johnson deal spread throughout the organization, a number of players expressed surprise and excitement.

"I never thought we would have the chance to sign (Johnson)," receiver Jacquez Green said. "There will be great competition at the quarterback position. Whoever prevails should do a good job for us this season. I've always been impressed with his accuracy. He always has good zip on the ball and always puts the ball on the money with whomever he has played with."

Center Jeff Christy, who played with Johnson in Minnesota, said his arrival could be one of the best things for King.

"He's a great guy," Christy said. "His leadership is second to none, after what he's been through in Minnesota and Washington. I think he's a consummate professional who does the little things off the field. He's just going to be a great addition to our team."

Johnson is no stranger to the Bucs defense. All-Pro linebacker Derrick Brooks, who played one season with Johnson at Florida State, said the Bucs have signed a winner.

"Brad is a competitor," Brooks said. "That's the first thing that comes to my mind. You never have to worry about where he is (off the field), and you never have to worry about his work ethic. He's always going to keep his nose clean and has always won where ever he's been. And that's all that counts.

"Obviously, (the team) must feel that this will help us get better and you have to trust their judgment. At the same time, you hope that it doesn't cause any (chemistry) problems. I don't think that it will. He'll come in and have to win the job."

Brooks said Johnson always posed difficulty for the Bucs defense for obvious and not-so-obvious reasons.

"You appreciate his awareness on the field when he's out there," Brooks said. "His athleticism is something that gets underrated. But Brad is a good athlete, and I don't think a lot of people realize that."

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