By ROGER MILLS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 27, 2001
TAMPA -- His 102 catches have taken him to the end zone only once. The question is whether they will be enough to take him to Hawaii.
Bucs receiver Keyshawn Johnson leads the NFL in receptions and has set a franchise record for catches in a season. But as players around the NFL gathered Wednesday to fill out Pro Bowl ballots, Johnson said there are no guarantees he would be among the four receivers selected from the NFC.
"I think if you look from an overall perspective, I think I have performed at that level, at a level where I'm worthy of going to the Pro Bowl," Johnson said. "It's something that I can't control. If I'm sitting around worried about whether or not I'm going to make the Pro Bowl, rather than worried about getting a championship ring, there's something wrong with my priorities."
Some players are chosen based on reputation and years of service, but the competition is stiff for others.
In the NFC this season, Johnson is among a crop of good receivers led by San Francisco's Terrell Owens, who has 86 catches for 1,203 yards and 14 touchdowns. Arizona's David Boston (89 catches, 1,413 yards and 6 TDs), New Orleans' Joe Horn (78 catches, 1,208 yards and 9 TDs) and Chicago's Marty Booker (85 catches, 919 yards and 8 TDs) also are in the mix.
"I'm not that concerned about it," Johnson said. "If I don't get chosen, I don't get chosen. That's how they feel. It's not going to stop me from going out there and performing and continuing to add to those 102 receptions and (1,237 yards) or whatever the case may be. Any time you have the type of numbers I have, how do you not go to the Pro Bowl?"
Johnson accepted that gaudy numbers aren't always enough. He said popularity also comes into play.
"I probably would understand why I didn't make it, more so than why I would make it," Johnson said. "There's a lot of envy, a lot of jealousy that goes on with me as a player. I understand, I can see why."
Johnson, who needs 22 catches in his last two games to set an NFL season record, said those voting should realize what numbers stand for.
"When you play at a high level, you usually get in," Johnson said. "Can you see someone not voting Marshall Faulk to the Pro Bowl? I think if you talk about production, you talk about Owens, Johnson, Boston and Horn and you leave it at that."
He said having only one touchdown shouldn't be a problem.
"They know," Johnson said. "They know they're not throwing the ball to me in the end zone."
And what of Vikings receiver Randy Moss who has 78 catches, 1,214 yards and 10 TDs?.
"I think Moss probably hurt himself from a (public) standpoint (with his behavior)."