It's part of his high profile and outspoken personality. He often says too much. He does too much.
Such as starting a controversy early this year by calling Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber "an Uncle Tom." Or his recent national dust-up with Fox sideline reporter Pam Oliver.
Johnson criticized Oliver on his Sirius satellite radio show Thursday for her report during an Oct. 24 game that he had yelled at Cowboys assistant coach Sean Payton.
Johnson vehemently denied the report, saying, "I almost wanted to get on a plane, find where she is at, and sit her down and spank her with a ruler really, really hard, because it makes no sense. You don't need to make up a story."
Now deemed a racist and a sexist, Johnson almost achieved the trifecta with two first-half mistakes that turned into interceptions against the Lions on Sunday.
If the Cowboys would have lost, Johnson would have been branded a loser as well.
That the Cowboys didn't lose is partly because of Johnson. The 31-21 victory was clinched in the fourth quarter with a 38-yard touchdown reception by Johnson, his second score of the game.
In the end, it was the same Johnson Cowboys coach Bill Parcells has known going all the way back to their days with the Jets.
With 30 catches for 448 yards and a team-leading four interceptions, Johnson has certainly proved to be the clutch receiver the Cowboys were looking for when they acquired him a trade from Tampa Bay in the offseason for Joey Galloway. And with receiver Terry Glenn out of the season with a foot sprain, he is the team's most experienced receiver and stands to have an increased role in the offense as the Cowboys (3-4) attempt to revive their season.
But it's Johnson's fight and personal accountability that Parcells cherishes and counts on most.
"You know first of all that I have confidence in the player," Parcells said. "He's willing to admit his mistakes. But the things you know about Keyshawn in a positive way, there's going to be a few things in terms of mistakes once and awhile. He's not perfect. But he's going to be in the fight, which is good. You know you've got a player that's involved in the fight. You like that that's the way he is."
While his admissions of wrongdoing following the Detroit game took many by surprise, considering his supposedly selfish and Meshawn personality, Johnson says he has always been that way. He had no reservations about standing up and taking the blame for quarterback Vinny Testaverde's interceptions on Sunday.
"If I make a mistake, I am man enough to admit I made the mistake," Johnson said. "I know the quarterback didn't do that. I know I did. If you going to boo, boo me. Vinny doesn't deserve to get booed. I know how idiotic people can be, as Bill would say. They were going to blame Vinny. I was wrong. It was my mistake."
Was Johnson wrong for calling Barber an Uncle Tom?
While he blames a national magazine reporter for reporting his comments, he acknowledges he probably went too far.
Johnson, however, refuses to back down in the fight with Oliver and Fox Sports because he says they are not admitting their mistake.
Ingrid Roberts, vice president for business development at Keyshawn Inc., said Johnson probably used the wrong choice of words. She says the controversy is not a gender issue but a reporting problem. And they have asked for a formal retraction.
"He had a heated passionate response to someone not doing their homework," Roberts said. "His wife works in television for the Cowboys. I've worked for him for a long time. He has a history of dealing with many female reporters. This is not a gender issue."
What it is, according to Johnson, is a typical response to someone people consistently look to for controversy. He says they latch on to the negatives but never want to look at his entire body of work.
"If I argue with a coach, I will admit it," Johnson said. "I have done that. It seems that people are looking for me to do wrong so they can blow it up. Why don't people concentrate on my many charities or that I send kids to college every day or that I work hard for my team and try to play football the right way? Why are the other things that are always the major point with me?"
That they aren't with Parcells is another reason why Johnson is glad he's no longer playing for coach Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay. He said his two first-half mistakes against the Lions would have resulted in no more balls being thrown his way.
Instead, he was on the field doing what he believes he does best when the game is on the line.
"That is me," Johnson said. "That's what I do. I got six balls thrown to me. I caught three. I should have caught five. But at the end of the day, I am going to get mine. You are going to feel the pain. I am going to have a positive impact on the game."
Again, Johnson can't help himself.
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