Sunday, September 29, 2002

Johnson cousins engage in family spat

By Joe Kay
AP Sports Writer

        Chad Johnson pushed the “end call” button on his cell phone and fumed. Cousin Keyshawn Johnson had just spent the better part of their conversation boasting about what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were going to do to the Bengals today. The talk between receiver/relatives quickly became a family spat.

        “We got into it,” said Chad, who has five catches for the Bengals. “He thinks it's going to be a walk in the park. He has the perception it's going to be so easy.

        “I told him, 'It's the NFL. We might be going through some things now, we're 0-3, but you're not going to come in here and run all over the place.”'

        Anyone who saw the two teams play in prime time knows why the cousin in Florida is thinking easy times await up north.

        Before a Monday night audience, the Buccaneers (2-1) dismantled the so-called “Greatest Show on Turf.” Tampa Bay sacked Kurt Warner five times and intercepted him four times during a 26-14 victory over the Rams that had only one ugly moment.

        Keyshawn Johnson, who wrote “Just Give Me The Damn Ball” as a rookie in 1996, was unhappy with his limited role and, in effect, reminded coach Jon Gruden of his book title.

        Their less-than-philosophical sideline discussion on offensive theory was caught on camera.

        “I knew he was fussing about getting the ball,” Chad said. “It couldn't be anything else.”

        Gruden didn't like it, but he's not holding a grudge.

        “We've got to do a better job of limiting those types of displays of emotion, because they are distracting and they can be perceived to be a very negative thing,” Gruden said. “But this deal here is nothing.”

        The night before the Bucs fussed on national television, the Bengals bombed on national television.

        A 30-3 loss to Atlanta on Sunday night left them with a different twist on Keyshawn's theme: Just find me someone to throw the ball.

        Gus Frerotte was dumped in the first half, ending his era as Bengals quarterback after less than three games. Jon Kitna took over and struggled. Out of desperation, coach Dick LeBeau decided to promote Akili Smith from third-string to starter.

        It's far from an ideal situation. Smith started one game last season, but has otherwise been relegated to imitating the opposing quarterback while running the scout team in practice.

        “If I could have drawn a perfect script, I wouldn't have picked the Bucs,” said Smith, who is 3-13 as a starter. “It's going to be a challenge. Those guys are good.”

        Smith will be tempted to run often, which would be just fine with the Bucs.

        “I've never seen him play, and I'm not going to worry about it,” defensive tackle Warren Sapp said. “How much faster can he be than Donovan McNabb, Kordell Stewart or (Steve) McNair? And, he doesn't have the experience of those guys.”

        The Bengals' best hope is the Buccaneers' attitude. Tampa Bay visited last season under similar circumstances, and had to go overtime for a 16-13 win.

        “I guess the human mindset is to be up and down a little bit, kind of take a week off, but you can't do that in this league,” Bucs defensive lineman Anthony McFarland said. “We were kind of in the same situation last year. I think that experience will help us a little bit this year, knowing what we're going into.”

        That close call was on the Bengals' minds, too. Chad Johnson reminded his haughty cousin that there was no walk in the park the last time they got together.

        “I told him, 'Why don't you look at the past?”' Chad said.


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