Did the Tampa Bay Buccaneers talk to Keyshawn Johnson? Yes.
Did head coach Jon Gruden have a problem with it? No.
At least that's what Buccaneers general manager Bruce Allen said on Thursday.
Allen admitted that the Bucs contacted the former Bucs receiver — now a broadcaster with ESPN — after losing Maurice Stovall to a season-ending injury on Dec. 23.
Allen said he and Johnson went way back, even before Allen joined the Buccaneers in early 2004.
"It was to put him on an emergency list, to see if he was in shape," Allen said. "We saw that he was still talking well and stuff."
And Gruden — who had a well-publicized row with Johnson before suspending him in 2003 and then trading him to the Dallas Cowboys in 2004 — was all right with it?
"Yeah," Allen said, "and so was Keyshawn."
Allen appeared to be most moved by the player reaction to wide receiver Paris Warren's injury during preseason.
It became one of the enduring images of the season. Every player on the roster came out onto the field as trainers tended to Warren's injured ankle.
Many players believed the outpouring — which was repeated when Carnell Williams injured his knee in Carolina on Sept. 30 — went a long way toward bringing the team together.
Allen brought it up, with no prompting, on Thursday.
"The reaction of this team, the spontaneous reaction of this team when Paris Warren gets injured (was incredible)," Allen said. "And it was not just 45 guys, because it was a regular season dress. It was a 75-man roster going out because one of their brothers is down to give them support puts a tingle down my back, and I am very proud of them."
|Tampa Bay running back Carnell Williams. (AP photo)|
"The good news is, we get to see him every day," Allen said. "And we can see the progress being made. There is no doubt that Carnell is going to do everything in his power to get better. And if somebody can come back from that injury quicker, it's Carnell Williams."
The problem is the Buccaneers could be thin at the position. Earnest Graham is under contract through 2008, and Allen mentioned that he would approach Graham and his agent about an extension. But Michael Bennett is an unrestricted free agent and Michael Pittman has a contact that can be voided. In fact, Allen mentioned that Pittman "is going to be a" a free agent, indicating that he believes the veteran won't be a part of their plans.
That would leave the team with Graham and an rehabbing Williams as their primary backs.
"It will have an impact," Allen said. "It's an area that needs to be addressed."
How much longer will the Jake Plummer saga continue? As long as Allen has hope, apparently.
"I'm a really hopeful guy," Allen said. "That I am. He got to see what we were doing this year and he has a contact and we expect him to honor it."
Plummer has two years left on his deal and the cap hit is pretty hefty if the Bucs choose to release him. Allen said the Bucs have not spoken to Plummer lately.
But how realistic is it for the Buccaneers to hope that Plummer will honor his deal at this point? Plummer spent the entire year on the sideline, negating what little trade value he might have had.
The Bucs, for the moment, appear stuck with him.
Reporters brought up Jeff Garcia's quote about the team needing to utilize the playmakers it already has. Allen spun it like this:
"A lot of people got a chance this year, for one reason or another," Allen said. "We need some players to come in and help this football team and dominate. Everybody inside that locker is going to be given an opportunity."
The conversation later turned from playmakers in the locker room to playmakers outside the locker room. One reporter asked Allen if the team needed to bring in a playmaking wide receiver. Allen quickly brought up that Joey Galloway has had three straight 1,000-yard season. Another reporter asked if the Bucs needed another receiver of Galloway's pedigree.
"If we can find more players with that type of talent, we absolutely are going to knock on that door and find that type of talent without a doubt," Allen said.
|Tampa Bay wide receiver Michael Clayton. (Getty Images)|
Allen said he didn't want to measure Clayton's impact like that.
"I'm actually very proud of the comeback that he did," Allen said. "He was an important part of the special teams and an important part of our offense. He sets a tone that you don't see in a lot of wide receivers in the NFL. I think the playoff (game), he made some nice grabs in the playoff game. I don't look at it so much as like he had, whatever he had, 30 catches and Ike had 50 catches and Stovall had 20 catches. Those are all Buccaneer receptions. If you can work within our mix and be a good teammate and not give a darn if you caught the ball or your teammate caught the ball, but you can free up an extra reception yard … that is the type of guys we want."
When asked if Clayton needed to do more, Allen said, "If somebody gets less playing time because somebody is better, that's a positive."
Maybe for the other player, but not for the player the Bucs took in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft and pinned their future on after a wildly successful rookie season.
Finally, Allen said he hasn't spoken to Mike Alstott yet and didn't appear to be in any hurry to resolve the fullback's future.
"Mike is contemplating his situation," Allen said. "We get together at this time each year. We'll discus it. I don't think there's any hurry in making a decision. After Mike and I get together I'm sure we'll let you know what we decide."
Alstott hinted at retirement on WDAE-AM on Wednesday morning.
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Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for Bucsblitz.com and the Charlotte (Fla.) Sun-Herald. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and his coverage of the Buccaneers has won numerous state and national awards.