05-23-2007, 10:53 PM
IRONMAN a.k.a. Tony Stark
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Re: Keshawn Johnson to retire
Key closes one door, opens another
By Pat Kirwan
NFL.com Senior Analyst
(May 23, 2007) -- I had the pleasure of being involved in the drafting of Keyshawn Johnson and the satisfaction of watching him play at a high level for a long time. He played with great passion, which occasionally got him in trouble with a coach or teammate, but no one can question his toughness or love of the game.
He leaves football, probably two years too early. And if he were to suit up this year, he would probably do what he does best; move the chains for a first down 45 to 50 times, make a number of downfield blocks to spring a long gain and look crooked at the head a coach a few times when he thought the play-calling wasn't daring enough or forgot about him for a series or two. A lot of what 'Key' did on the field doesn't always show up on the stats page, but it was the stuff a very good football player is made of.
I think one of his finest performances over his 11-year career was in Tampa Bay's Super Bowl win over the Raiders. It wasn't his tough catches in traffic or his downfield blocking, which was always good, but it was his blocking on the Raiders defensive ends to spring Michael Pitman on the dip/toss runs, especially to the Bucs' left side. Johnson was a wide receiver who would go in motion and on the snap of the ball seal the flank with a physical block on the defensive end that would have made Vince Lombardi proud. Not many wideouts could take on the challenge of smacking a 275-pound defensive end over and over again to set up control of the line of scrimmage. Of course, what always stole the headlines during Johnson's stay in Tampa Bay was his conflicts with head coach Jon Gruden and defensive tackle Warren Sapp. I prefer to watch the gametapes and leave the gossip for someone else to diagnose.
Bill Parcells was just what the doctor ordered for Johnson's personality. Johnson wasn't a boyscout with Parcells, but there was mutual respect because both believed the other helped them win. Parcells once told a teammate of Johnson in Dallas, "I can trust Johnson on the field."
Johnson leaves the game with a few impressive accomplishments and his 814 receptions for 10,571 yards and 64 touchdowns only tells a part of the story. He moved the chains 552 times in those 814 receptions, which is 67 percent of the time Johnson created a first down with his reception. Johnson rarely ran a 10-yard round when it was third-and-11. He knew where the chains were and he made sure he was over that line before the reception. He also was tough and could take a hit. In 167 games, he only lost a fumble twice and he took a number of big hits.
Finally, Johnson leaves the game as a bit of a controversial character. He didn't care for being at the facility all offseason during his career. He'd much rather spend his time at home with his family. He probably voiced his opinion too often during a losing game and he hated to lose especially if he didn't get the 'damn ball' enough. But what else would you expect from any player. Leaving will not be easy, but he has a real future in the media world and it's better a year early than a year late for a 35-year-old competitor. So there goes No. 19 and I will always remember my son, Sean, going down to the equipment room at the N.Y. Jets when 'Key' signed his contract and coming back with the only No. 19 Jersey left. There are a lot of high school, college and professional receivers still wearing that number.