Johnson set to face BucsSince leading Tampa Bay to a Super Bowl title and making the Pro Bowl following the 2002 season, Brad Johnson sure has bounced around.
IRVING, Texas (AP) — Since leading Tampa Bay to a Super Bowl title and making the Pro Bowl following the 2002 season, Brad Johnson sure has bounced around.
He remained with the Buccaneers for two more seasons, but the second was spent mostly on the sideline. Then he went to Minnesota as the backup to Daunte Culpepper, only to see Culpepper get hurt by midseason. Johnson was back in charge and kept the job the following year.
Last season, he came to Dallas fully aware he was no more than an insurance policy on Tony Romo, and he didn’t throw a pass until the season finale. Johnson returned this year for more of the same, which isn’t so terrible considering he turned 40 before Week 2 and is getting paid several million dollars.
Then Romo broke the pinkie on his throwing hand. After some drama over whether Romo would play anyway, Johnson started last Sunday — and looked like a guy nearly two years removed from his last meaningful action, going 17-of-34 with three interceptions in a 34-14 loss that was even more lopsided than it sounds.
“Obviously, that’s not the start that I want as a quarterback here,” Johnson said.
This week, the rust is knocked off and his status as the starter is unquestioned. He’s taking almost all the snaps with the first-team in practice, trying to get his timing down with Terrell Owens, Jason Witten and the rest of his receivers.
It can’t happen soon enough, too, with the Cowboys at a crossroads in this once-promising season. Having already lost three of four, the next two games Johnson starts are against division leaders, first his old pals from Tampa Bay, then the New York Giants.
“In the NFL, every week’s a crisis situation, from every win to every loss,” Johnson said. “You’ve got to be able to see the big picture. Obviously we’ve kind of struggled the last couple of weeks so it makes more attention brought to notice. We feel like we’ve just got to play better football and give ourselves a chance at the beginning of the game, find a way to play with the lead and the game kind of changes, the dynamics of the game change. We all have to take it upon ourselves to play better.”
Maybe it will help that this week he’ll be facing Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber and a defense he used to go against daily.
“I’ve been away from Tampa for 3½ years now,” Johnson said. “I have a lot of great respect for that organization, but right now it’s a different year, different times down there and a different me.”
Johnson has started 24 games and played in 53 since leaving the Bucs, yet none have been against them. He actually was on the opposite side of the field in his very first game with the Vikings in ‘05, but watched as Culpepper played the whole way.
Only eight players are left from Johnson’s days wearing pewter. Brooks is among those who affectionately remember the player teammates call, “Bull.”
“Brad, in my opinion, is one of the more efficient guys in terms of executing,” Brooks said. “We know he’s going to play a lot better than he did against the Rams. We expect the best effort out of Bull.”
Any things the Bucs might still remember that they can use against him?
“Not very many,” Brooks said, pausing for emphasis, “that I’m allowed to share.”
Jon Gruden has fond memories, too, as any coach would for the quarterback who earned him his first Super Bowl ring.
“I love that guy,” he said. “I’ve texted him and talked to him a few times periodically. We’ve stayed in touch over the years. He’s special to me and he always will be.”
The Cowboys respect Johnson, too, but they’re still a ways from loving him.
With a weaker arm and less mobility, he’s no Tony Romo. The efficiency and wise veteran leadership he was supposed to bring weren’t evident against the Rams, either.
Still, even T.O. is cutting him some slack because of his long layoff and how little practice time he’s had with the first team. Knowing all week that Romo is out and Johnson is in should help everyone.
“We’re going to do whatever we can to create some opportunities for ourselves to win the game,” Owens said. “We’re going to practice hard this week, give him a realistic look of what’s going to be going on on game day and hope for the best.”
Witten talked about needing to “get into Brad’s world.”
“Him and Tony have different thoughts,” Witten said. “The reads are pretty much the same, but just how they view different things. For a lot of us we really haven’t played with Brad that much, so it’s just getting on the same page with him more than anything else. Communication.”
Added T.O.: “We just got to put him in situations to get the ball out of his hands quick, to get him comfortable, put him in a comfort zone so he can manage our offense and manage our team.”
Romo is keeping the faith in Johnson.
“We’re lucky to have him,” he said. “I think it will show.”