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Keyshawn: frequent flier

By RICK STROUD

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 12, 2001


TAMPA -- Keyshawn Johnson still is talking about the jets. But his discourse is not about his former team in New York or the trade that sent him to Tampa Bay for two No. 1 draft picks one year ago today.

TAMPA -- Keyshawn Johnson still is talking about the jets. But his discourse is not about his former team in New York or the trade that sent him to Tampa Bay for two No. 1 draft picks one year ago today.

It's about the cross-country flights that bring him from Los Angeles to Tampa every Tuesday and home Thursday so he can participate in the Bucs' off-season training program.

"I fly back and forth every single week," Johnson said. "They asked me to do it, so I'm doing it. And I'm spending my own money, too."

Johnson has plenty of that as he enters the second season of a six-year, $53-million contract.

But much has changed in the past 12 months for Johnson, the talkative superstar receiver who led the Bucs with 71 catches and eight touchdowns last season.

"I think I'm in much better shape than last year, simply because I don't have all the uncertainty and trade talks and rumors swirling around me," Johnson said. "It's much different because last year I was coming in to see where I fit in to what they do. Now I come in knowing that the passing game is mine. I had to try to adapt to who they were, and now they've adapted to me."

Coach Tony Dungy said he believes Johnson will have an even better season in 2001 because of the team's familiarity with him. He also said he plans to make sure Johnson gets involved in the offense earlier in games.

"I think we know him better, and I think he knows our offense better. And those two things should help us," Dungy said. "After being with him a year and knowing what he does well and knowing what our quarterbacks can do, he should be better. And I've learned that we have to get him the ball early in the game."

NO CHIDI, NO PROBLEM?: The starting defensive line, including Simeon Rice, was present for off-season workouts Wednesday. But notably absent: Chidi Ahanotu.

Thought to be an eventual salary cap casualty after the signing of Rice, Ahanotu says he plans to attend minicamp after the April 21-22 draft.

"It's not anything unusual," Ahanotu said. "I haven't been out there (at this time) for the past few years."

Said Dungy: "I told him to prepare as if he's going to be with us."

Denver gives Griese $40-million

DENVER -- Brian Griese, who emerged last season as one of the NFL's best young quarterbacks, agreed to a new six-year contract with the Broncos worth about $40-million.

Griese threw for 2,688 yards with 19 touchdowns and four interceptions in 10 games, and led the NFL with a quarterback rating of 102.9. He missed six of Denver's final seven games, including its playoff loss in Baltimore, with a separated right shoulder. He had reconstructive surgery Jan. 10 and hopes to be able to start throwing in the next few weeks.

The deal includes a $12.5-million signing bonus.

"It was extremely important to get it done quickly and quietly," said Ralph Cindrich, Griese's agent. "A quarterback is a leader on the team who stands in the shoes of a coach. If there's a problem with a contract, there's a tendency to lose your teammates."

Griese was a restricted free agent, meaning the Broncos could have matched any offer for him. But contract talks heated up after the Chiefs expressed interest.

BENGALS: Defensive lineman Kevin Henry signed a three-year contract. Henry was the Steelers' fourth-round pick in 1993. Coach Dick LeBeau was the Steelers' defensive coordinator in 1995-96.

DOLPHINS: Receivers Ronnie Anderson and Robert Baker signed. Anderson last played with Arizona in 1998, in four games on special teams. He was waived in September 1999. Baker was in training camp last year with the Dolphins before being waived in August. He spent 1999 with Dolphins on the injured reserve.

SEAHAWKS: Free safety, Marcus Robertson, who spent his 10-season career with the Oilers/Titans, is the fifth defensive free agent signed by Seattle. He agreed to a three-year, $3.9-million contract. Robertson, 31, joins defensive tackles John Randle, Chad Eaton and Jeremy Staat and middle linebacker Levon Kirkland as recent additions to the Seahawks.

- Staff writer Roger Mills and Times wires contributed to this report.

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