Johnson sounds homesick in jabs at Jets

ON THE NFL

June 04, 2000|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

Keyshawn Johnson seems intent on proving that money doesn't buy happiness.

Johnson, who wanted the New York Jets to tear up the last two years of his contract, got the deal of a lifetime when he was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who gave him an eight-year contract worth more than $50 million with a $13 million signing bonus.

Johnson, though, still sounds like a player who misses New York. It was the kind of stage he liked, near the bright lights of Broadway.

There aren't any bright lights, much less tabloid newspapers, in Tampa Bay, and Johnson might already miss the attention.

When a New York tabloid columnist turned up in Tampa last week for the team's minicamp, Johnson was ailing with back spasms, but there was nothing wrong with his tongue.

He couldn't resist taking shots at the Jets, saying, "They ain't trying to win, man. Period. And I ain't going to sugarcoat it."

He said new Jets coach Al Groh told him he wanted to create his own team rather than live in Bill Parcells' shadow the way Ray Handley and Pete Carroll did.

"So part of creating your own team is getting rid of your top player," Johnson said.

He added, "Why would you go and trade a guy because he asked you to address his contract issue?"

He also took shots at his old nemesis, Jets receiver Wayne Chrebet, saying he can't be the offensive leader, criticized the club for drafting quarterback Chad Pennington instead of giving a new deal to Ray Lucas and said Parcells will return to coaching, but not with the Jets.

All this made great tabloid reading, but the most interesting thing is that he can't just take the money and run and put New York in his past. It's obvious he still misses the Big Apple.

He said when the Jets come to Tampa on Sept. 24, "they better sit up all night to scheme me."

Wait until Johnson figures out he probably won't be a star in Tampa Bay because the Bucs live on defense and running the ball.

But that's a Johnson outburst for another day.

B. Sanders speaks

Barry Sanders has been a near sphinx since he retired a year ago. He has not given a long interview to explain his thinking. He sent the Detroit Lions a statement saying he was retiring, went off to London and that was that.

In recent weeks, though, Sanders has made comments to reporters twice while making appearances.

In Phoenix, he said, "I do miss it. I've been playing since I was 9. I played with some good guys with the Lions - Herman Moore, Charlie Batch. I didn't demand a trade, but after I played awhile, I got tired of it. I wanted to take a break.

"I was out there for 10 years at the top of my game. That was long enough."

In Atlanta, he said, "There comes a time when it's not fun. I didn't demand a trade from the Lions. I just got tired of it."

Asked whether he would report to camp in July, he said, "No way. I'm not coming back with them."

Sanders' agents have suggested he would come back if the Lions released or traded him. The Lions' position is that he's welcome to come back but that they're not letting him leave.

Meanwhile, Sanders will have to write the Lions a check for $1.83 million next month as the prorated share of his signing bonus for 2000 if he doesn't return. Because he doesn't have to pay interest on the money, it might be a wash if he invested it well in the stock market.

If Sanders is to be taken at his word, maybe he did just have enough.

Cap count

Teams usually wait until after June 1 to release high-salaried players to lessen their cap hit this year.

But the Cincinnati Bengals released running back Ki-Jana Carter shortly before the 4 p.m. Thursday deadline because they wanted to take the $2.035 million hit this year instead of spreading it out. The Bengals don't believe in credit-card spending.

The Bengals were going to do the same thing with wide receiver Carl Pickens but delayed releasing him because they're still debating the NFL Players Association on whether they will get the franchise tag back after releasing him.

Pickens has $2.8 million left on the cap charge for his $3.5 million signing bonus, but the Bengals will be charged only $700,000 of that this year when they release him.

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