The Bucs receiver's ex-team missed the playoffs. Think you'll catch Johnson gloating? You bet.
By RICK STROUD
© St. Petersburg Times, published December 27, 2000
TAMPA -- Keyshawn Johnson has a chance to shine in the playoffs. The Jets could not find a post-season spot with a flashlight.
Johnson, the target of Jets coach Al Groh after a 21-17 win over the Bucs on Sept. 24, enjoyed having the last laugh Tuesday at the expense of his former team.
It was Groh who passed out miniature flashlights to all his players, mocking Johnson's comparison of Jets receiver Wayne Chrebet to a flashlight while comparing himself to a star. But the Jets were eliminated from the playoffs Sunday by Baltimore, and Tampa Bay heads to Philadelphia for a wild-card game Sunday.
"All I can do is smile," Johnson said. "I'm smiling. I figured they would probably not make the playoffs. They came down here, and they beat us fair and square, there's no question about it. But I think throughout the week, everything was okay until we lost the football game and everybody blew everything out of proportion to try and embarrass me and make me look bad. I think there's a lot of people all over the country that are pretty satisfied with the way the end result turned out.
"I'm not finished by a long shot this year. I've got three more games to go. But at least one of my goals when I came here was to make the playoffs. I was able to do that; I was able to help this team get to the playoffs."
Johnson was the subject of ridicule after catching one pass for 1 yard in the loss to the Jets. Ironically, Chrebet hauled in the winning touchdown pass from Curtis Martin to cap a comeback from a 10-point deficit.
Groh seized on Chrebet's catch as a tool to ridicule Johnson.
"I just laugh at it," Johnson said. "I talk to a lot of guys on that team every single day ... and I know what their motivation was. Their motivation was for a lot of them to hurry up and get it over with. A lot of them didn't even want to be a part of it. They felt, I don't want to say sorry for me, but they felt the situation was ridiculous.
"You go back and look at the transcripts, you'll see there was nothing said about embarrassing people. I said the same things every single day. The networks went out of their way to try to embarrass me. But at the end of the day, I'm smiling. And every game we win in the playoffs, my smile gets bigger and bigger."
Johnson led the Bucs with 71 catches for 874 yards and eight touchdowns, slightly below his career average in receptions and yards. But his impact on the offense has been obvious.
"I was able to perform in one of the biggest games of the year, the St. Louis game," Johnson said. "There was a lot of talk about could (the Bucs) beat the Rams with a dominant wide receiver? Well, I played in that game against them, and we were able to beat the Rams. I think (the Bucs are) pretty happy with the trade (that brought Johnson here)."