- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 28, 2000

Whether he's a shining star or a flashlight, the spotlight is always on Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Keyshawn Johnson.

The Washington Redskins are getting ready for the mouth that soars. Last week Johnson said he's a star that shines forever while former New York Jets teammate Wayne Chrebet was just a flashlight. The Jets then beat the Bucs 21-17 on Sunday behind Chrebet's 18-yard touchdown reception with 52 seconds left.

No matter that Johnson caught only one pass for 1 yard against his former teammates. Anyone who writes a book titled "Just Give Me the Damn Ball …" following his rookie season isn't afraid of criticism. Johnson is much like Washington Redskins cornerback Deion Sanders a lightning rod for controversy who once followed a 90-yard kickoff return in college by running through the end zone to a concession stand to drink a soda.

Johnson became the most heralded player in Bucs history after Tampa Bay traded two first-round picks to the Jets for him April 12 and made him the richest NFL receiver with a $56 million deal. Some consider Johnson the final piece for Tampa Bay (3-1) to reach the Super Bowl. But the fact that Johnson has started slowly with only one big game over the first month has startled Bucs fans.

"I'll be all right," Johnson told the St. Petersburg Times. "I assure you, in the end, I'll have my catches. It might be sooner than you think. A lot sooner. I just dig deep and continue to do things, and eventually things will come to me… . At the end of the day, at the end of the year, tally everything up and I'll be right where I'm supposed to be."

The Redskins (2-2) don't want the meter to start against them Sunday at FedEx Field. Washington has one of the secondaries that can single-cover Johnson without even flipping corners, but the Redskins know stopping him is paramount to winning a potential playoff tiebreaker game. They expect Johnson and the Bucs to test their third-ranked pass defense.

"This week he's going to yell like Tarzan and play like Tarzan," Redskins defensive end Kenard Lang said. "He got mentally and physically embarrassed [against the Jets]. Most times, when somebody talks trash they're going to back it up, but he didn't play that well. This week he's going to come ready to play."

Said coach Norv Turner: "They're going to get him the ball if they work hard to do it. He can outjump you. He can separate [from defenders]. He does a good job of pushing off. We have to keep him from turning an 8-, 10-yard play into something big."

The Redskins are familiar with Johnson. He caught only three passes for 27 yards last year in Washington's 27-20 victory over New York but grabbed eight receptions for 74 yards in the Redskins' 31-16 triumph in 1996. Johnson had touchdowns nullified by penalties in both games.

"He's in a Michael Irvin mode. He's not going to outrun anybody, but he has the heart and [desire] to," cornerback Darrell Green said. "He'll push you and do whatever he has to do."

Cornerback Champ Bailey is still a little miffed over his matchup last year against Johnson. The rookie mostly held the two-time Pro Bowl choice in check but felt the receiver was standoffish afterward.

"He didn't seem like he respected me at all," Bailey said. "After the game, he talked a lot of trash about me not stopping his game. I don't think he respects anybody in the league anyway. He's not going to get 10 balls I don't care what he comes in thinking, I have my own game plan."

Johnson's 15 catches lead the Bucs despite being one reception a game below his career average. He has only one touchdown and one dominating effort this season, catching eight passes for 84 yards against Detroit on Sept. 17. Still, the Redskins know Johnson will be looking for big plays.

"I don't worry about the physical attitude, because everyone is big and strong," safety Mark Carrier said. "It's the competitive edge like Michael Jordan's will to win, and Keyshawn's like that."

Yet the Bucs refuse to view the receiver as the difference between victory and defeat.

"We didn't bring Keyshawn in with the idea he's got to get us to the Super Bowl," coach Tony Dungy said. "We won a lot of games before he got here. We think he'll help us win a few more."

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