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Keyshawn and Parcells: Together again

| Saturday, March 20, 2004

IRVING, Texas -- Keyshawn Johnson was reunited with Bill Parcells on Friday, giving the Dallas Cowboys the big target -- and flamboyant personality -- they've lacked since Michael Irvin retired.

The acquisition was settled once Joey Galloway accepted a contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Galloway's approval was the final hurdle in completing a trade that was discussed for nearly a month.

"I'm excited, probably more excited than I was when I won the Super Bowl," said Johnson, who helped the Bucs win the championship following the 2002 season. "It's good to be headed somewhere I'll be working with people who know what I'm about."

Johnson knew he was leaving the Bucs after they declared him inactive for the final six games last season because of differences with coach Jon Gruden. Rather than cut him, Tampa Bay made a trade so it would get something back on its initial investment of two first-round picks.

Johnson agreed more than three weeks ago to a $20 million, four-year deal with Dallas that includes a $4 million bonus. Then he waited for the Bucs and Galloway to strike a deal.

Everything stalled when Tampa Bay held firm at $1 million. The bid was increased Thursday to $2 million with another $600,000 in incentives, according to a source close to negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"There was no doubt in my mind I'd have to take a pay cut," said Galloway, whose previous deal was for $6.31 million this season. "We just had to come to an agreement on what the contract would be. I think both sides had confidence it would get done. There was no point in time did I want to play with anyone but Tampa Bay."

Johnson expects to be happy in Dallas because of Parcells. That's what the Cowboys are counting on, too.

They do have a successful track record together: In three seasons with the New York Jets, Johnson made the Pro Bowl twice. His position coach those years was Todd Haley, hired by the Cowboys in January.

The Jets came within a game of the Super Bowl their second season. After the third, Parcells moved into the front office, dealing Johnson to the Bucs.

Parcells hasn't spoken publicly since the end of the season, but he said a lot about Johnson before Dallas played Tampa Bay in October. That same week, Johnson tweaked Gruden by calling Parcells his favorite coach.

Parcells called Johnson among his favorite players, saying "I could not say one negative thing about the guy. ... And I like him personally."

"I thought Keyshawn was a player that would attempt to do pretty much anything on the football field that you asked him to do," Parcells said.

"He's a tremendous blocker, probably one of the best two or three guys in football. And he would block anybody -- defensive linemen, linebackers, defensive back, anyone. So you gain an appreciation for the player when he'll take on every task with the same amount of enthusiasm as he does pass receiving."

Similar things were said about Irvin, who retired after the 1999 season. In addition to his blocks and catches over the middle, his strong work ethic and outgoing attitude made him a leading voice in the locker room.

Johnson's reputation, however, was sealed by a book titled "Just Give Me The Damn Ball!" that came out months after Parcells was hired in New York. Parcells called the fallout "insignificant compared to what that guy did when he played."

Galloway is excited about joining the Bucs for the same reason Johnson is leaving: Gruden.

"Any receiver that's had the opportunity to watch Coach Gruden work over the years would be happy to play in his system," Galloway said. "He knows what I do and what my strengths are."

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