By JOHN C. COTEY
© St. Petersburg Times,
published October 29, 2001
TAMPA -- Keyshawn Johnson did not play in the second half Sunday, but thanks to his big first half, Tampa Bay didn't need him.
Johnson was hurt on the Bucs' second-to-last play of the first half when he was hit on the right knee by cornerback Robert Tate as he twisted back around for a pass at the Vikings goal line.
The Bucs scored on the next play, a 5-yard pass from Brad Johnson to Dave Moore, but were without Keyshawn Johnson the rest of the game.
Johnson, who has been nursing a host of aches and bruises, said the knee was sore "and we'll know more (today). I will get an MRI in the morning and go from there. Right now they're saying it's just a bruise, but we'll know more (today). I probably could not have played if they needed me to. I was in pretty bad pain." The injury was listed as a knee contusion.
It is unlikely Johnson will practice until Thursday or Friday, according to head trainer Todd Toriscelli.
Johnson finished with five catches for 62 yards, including a 22-yarder the play before his injury, giving the Bucs the ball on the Viking 5.
Other injuries included Nate Webster, who strained his shoulder in the third quarter; Anthony McFarland, who sprained his right knee; and safety Eric Vance, who has a lower back contusion.
HE COULD GO ... NEVER MIND: The Bucs' streak of kick returns without a touchdown -- 0-for-forever -- almost came to an end late in the third quarter when backup center Todd Washington scooped up a squib kick and returned it to the Bucs 44.
Okay, so maybe that's not exactly almost, but the 22-yard return got the same reaction a touchdown would have from his teammates.
Washington picked up the kick, bounced off Vikings linebacker Fearon Wright in a violent collision, then broke outside into an open field, where he switched the ball to his right hand and used his left arm to try to stiff arm Tate, who made the tackle.
"I wasn't thinking, I was just trying to keep my feet moving," said the 6-foot-3, 324-pound Washington. "I felt one guy at the edge (Tate) and I was trying to get him out of the way. I saw a lot of green, but it was a long ways away."
Wright had to be helped from the field and did not return.
"I knew it was going to be a collision," Washington said. "I looked him in the eye, we both ducked our heads and it was the best man wins. I didn't know he dropped. I swung around and kept on running. I still haven't seen the hit; I didn't see it on the replay either. So I'm going to make sure I go home and catch it on the VCR and file it."
FRIGHTFUL DWIGHT: Dwight Smith had a miserable day. He bobbled the opening kickoff before corraling it just as he stepped out of bounds at the 4, and fumbled his second return in the fourth quarter, Tampa Bay's only turnover. He finished with 9 fewer return yards than Washington.
SPECIAL SPECIAL TEAMS: The Bucs kick return unit played a splendid game. Rabih Abdullah caused a fumble on a first-quarter kickoff (Minnesota recovered) and also made a great open field tackle in the second quarter at the Vikings 16.
Snubbing any potential Viking comeback, the special teams also helped start Minnesota's first three drives of the second half at the 18, 20 and 17 with excellent kick coverage.
YOU STILL HERE?: The Bucs ran 15 plays on their first scoring drive. The Vikings ran their 15th play on the first series of the third quarter.
HAPPY 200th: Sunday's game was the 200th NFL game for struggling punter Mark Royals. He hopes it won't be his last.
The Bucs auditioned four punters Tuesday, but nothing came of it. Royals didn't help his cause with a 27-yard punt after the Bucs' first drive, giving Minnesota the ball on the Tampa Bay 48.
It didn't look like Royals would get another chance. The Bucs scored on their next seven possessions.
When Royal did get a second punt early in the fourth quarter, he boomed a 57-yarder.
KING'S IN: Shaun King threw his first pass of the season after entering with 14 minutes remaining. It was a 20-yard completion to Frank Murphy.
TIDBITS: With 8:49 remaining in the first half, Minnesota had just six plays. ... One more touchdown would have tied the Bucs' highest point total of 48, achieved Sept. 13, 1987, against Atlanta. ... The Bucs' score was nearly identical to last year's 41-13 win over Minnesota at Raymond James Stadium.
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