Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

Keyshawn Johnson says Jon Gruden messed with his psyche


We have a new installment of ESPN on ESPN crime, as a former player who now works for ESPN gave an example of a miserable experience with a coach he hated -- a coach who also happens to work for ESPN.

Keyshawn Johnson said this morning on Sunday NFL Countdown that he despised playing for Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay so much that he was desperate to leave, by any means necessary.

“When your psyche is messed with, and you don’t want to be around the organization or team, you just want to do whatever you can to get out of there,” Johnson said. “And that was the situation when I was under Coach Gruden in Tampa.”

Gruden became Johnson’s coach in 2002, when he took the Bucs job, and they won the Super Bowl that season. But the next year, Gruden and Johnson were at each other’s throats so much that the Bucs essentially kicked Johnson off the team, sending him home and deactivating him for the final seven games.

Johnson says he was more than happy to exit a team coached by Gruden.

“I didn’t want to be there,” Johnson said. “I didn’t want to be in the environment. No matter we had just won a championship, and I was playing fine the year that I got deactivated, I was doing great. In fact, we had a chance to go to the playoffs. But it was just something about the way I was being coached, talked to, dealt with. Just didn’t want to be there. So for me, I was happy when I got the phone call that said, ‘Hey, we’re going to deactivate you for the rest of the year.’ I was excited. I was like, ‘Oh, cool, no problem. I don’t have to be around this because my health is more important.’ Going into a building and not wanting to be there, it was just a blessing to me to be able to go to Dallas. Heck, even before I went to Dallas I was talking to the Arizona Cardinals. Now think about that. I just wanted to get out of Tampa.”

We’ll be curious to see whether ESPN gives Gruden equal time to respond.