Tampa Bay Buccaneers Coach Jon Gruden says the team doesn't intend to trade its recently demoted quarterback, Brad Johnson.
"We are not going to trade Brad Johnson,'' Gruden said during his news conference Monday. "I am not going to answer all of the rumor mill. . . . There are a lot of inaccuracies out there. Brad Johnson is a big part of the football team and will continue to be that.''
Gruden switched starters, from Johnson to second-year pro Chris Simms, for last weekend's game at New Orleans. Johnson dropped all the way to third on the depth chart, and Gruden went to former Denver starter Brian Griese when Simms sprained his left (throwing) shoulder in the first quarter of his first NFL start. Griese completed 16 of 19 passes for 194 yards and threw for a third-quarter touchdown that proved to be the winning margin as the Buccaneers got their first victory of the season, 20-17. It was only the fourth offensive touchdown in five games for the Bucs, whose earlier touchdown against the Saints came on a fumble return by cornerback Ronde Barber.
Griese remains the starter for Monday night's game at St. Louis, Gruden said, adding that he would announce later in the week whether Johnson or Simms will be the primary backup against the Rams. Simms's injury probably will leave those duties to Johnson.
The NFL's trading deadline is Tuesday, and there has been speculation that the Bucs might shop Johnson and that Johnson might ask to be traded or released. Johnson's agent, Phil Williams, has said that Johnson won't make such a request. Even if he does, the Bucs say they won't accommodate it.
It might make sense for the Baltimore Ravens to attempt to trade for Johnson, especially after starter Kyle Boller's dreadful performance in Sunday night's win over the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. Johnson and Ravens Coach Brian Billick became close when the two were together in Minnesota.
But the Ravens adamantly refused to add a high-profile veteran quarterback in the offseason to challenge Boller for the starting job, signing Kordell Stewart via free agency as a minimum-salary backup only after it was determined that Anthony Wright had a serious shoulder injury. And the remainder of Johnson's $3.25 million salary for this season would be difficult for any club to fit beneath its salary cap.
"I don't want to be disrespectful to Brad,'' Gruden said. "I am sure there will be some people in town that will maybe think differently, but I know how I feel in my heart. I believe it is Brian Griese's time now to take the ball.''
Griese signed with Tampa as a free agent in March after a season in Miami and now gets a chance to revive his sagging career. He was the Broncos' starter between 1999 and 2002 and reached the Pro Bowl following a 2000 season in which he was the league's highest-rated passer.
"I can't really say that in my years of coaching, that I have seen a guy come in off the bench and play that well in a situation where we really needed him to do that,'' Gruden said. "He sparked us. He ignited us. He made some great plays in the game. . . . This guy can play. He's thrown 80 [actually 77] touchdown passes in the league. He led the AFC in passing efficiency. He succeeded John Elway, handpicked by Mike Shanahan, who I respect tremendously. He is 29 years old. He's had some bumps in the road, much like a lot of us have had. But what he did [Sunday] is for real. It was a heck of a show he put on.''
Griese inherits a team that, despite its 0-4 beginning, finds itself only one game out of second place in the NFC South.
"We like the fact that Atlanta lost,'' Gruden said. "We like the fact that they lost a lot. We like to see Carolina lose. We're always pleased when the Saints lose. That's just the way it is in football. We gained some ground and we've got some confidence. Some guys stepped up, which was good. We are really excited about this football team. . . . We try to talk about the brick house. You have to live in a brick house. You have to be strong internally. There is a lot of huffing and puffing going on out there. There are a lot of analysts trying to blow your house down. We have faced a lot of adversity here, losing some key members of this team very early in the season. It has taken a toll on us, but we have competed hard. We've had chances to win other games and we'll have chances to win more. If we keep making plays in crunch situations, we'll win our share.''
McCardell Meets With Gruden
Holdout wide receiver Keenan McCardell traveled from Houston to Tampa to meet with Gruden on Monday, but said nothing changed in his contract impasse with the club.
"While I have not changed my feelings or intentions concerning my situation, I decided to fly into town to personally meet with Coach Gruden in an effort to come to a mutually beneficial resolution to my holdout, whether by trade or otherwise,'' McCardell said in a written statement. "We both aired our views concerning the situation. Unfortunately, nothing was resolved, so I will return to Houston to continue my holdout. I continue to appreciate the support of my teammates, family and friends during this period.''
The Buccaneers have been adamant that they won't renegotiate McCardell's contract or trade or release him. There is likely to be plenty of trade speculation regarding McCardell, Johnson and a few other players around the league -- including Kansas City Chiefs tailback Larry Johnson -- as next week's deadline approaches. But more is generally promised than delivered before football's trading deadline.
The real question as tailback Chris Brown piles up yards for Tennessee while his Titans predecessor, Eddie George, usually looks old and slow in Dallas is: Why did the Titans even bother to try to rework George's contract to keep him? He merely would have taken carries from Brown.
Brown ran for 148 yards and two touchdowns in Monday night's 48-27 trouncing of the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. He had touchdown sprints of 37 and 29 yards in the game's opening 5 minutes 15 seconds as the Titans raced to a 17-0 lead and never looked back. Brown, who served as George's understudy last season as a rookie, has four 100-yard outings in five games this season and ranks second in the NFL in rushing with 556 yards, 21 behind the New York Giants' Tiki Barber. He's had three 100-yard first halves.
Brown is averaging 5.2 yards per carry this season. George never averaged more than 3.7 yards per carry in his final four seasons with the Titans. He is averaging 3.5 yards a carry this season for the Cowboys, with whom George signed after failing to agree to a restructured contract with Tennessee and being released. . . .
The Titans' Steve McNair became the winningest quarterback in franchise history with his 71st win, one more than Warren Moon. . . .
The Packers have fallen far and fallen fast since they looked like one of the best teams in the league in their opening win at Carolina. They're 0-3 at Lambeau and on their first four-game losing streak since 1991.
"This is unfamiliar territory for the Green Bay Packers in quite some time,'' Coach Mike Sherman said during his postgame news conference. " . . . What happens if you are not careful is that guys start to splinter off, and hopefully that will not be the case.''
Sherman's defense desperately misses injured nose tackle Grady Jackson and is surrendering five yards per rushing attempt. The Packers last yielded more points in a home game in 1952, when they played at the old City Stadium (Lambeau opened in '57 as the new City Stadium). On offense, they had only 35 rushing yards Monday and tailback Ahman Green fumbled for the fourth time this season. Quarterback Brett Favre threw three interceptions and failed to finish a third straight game, with Craig Nall taking over after the outcome was sealed.
"Words can't express the way I feel and have felt since we lost to Chicago'' in Week 2 at Lambeau, Favre said during his postgame news briefing. "I just don't know what to say. I didn't expect this. I don't think anyone associated with this team, including the fans, expected this. But this is the way it is at this point and hopefully we turn this thing around.''
Favre abandoned his usual habit of celebrating touchdowns boisterously. After he threw a one-yard scoring pass to tight end Bubba Franks in the second quarter Monday, Favre headed to the Packers' sideline and looked up toward his wife Deanna in a private box. Her younger brother, Casey Tynes, was killed last week after crashing an all-terrain vehicle on Favre's property in Mississippi. . . . NFL road teams improved to 36-38 this season with Monday night's victory by the Titans. Monday's game was only the fifth in the league this season decided by 20 or more points.
Tice No Fan Of Celebration
Minnesota wide receiver Kelly Campbell had better not count on Vikings Coach Mike Tice as a character witness if he's fined by the league for his excessive celebration penalty during Sunday's overtime win at Houston. Tice said Monday he hopes the NFL "fines the snot out of'' Campbell, who came off the sideline to join quarterback Daunte Culpepper's celebratory dance of a touchdown pass to wideout Randy Moss.
"I'm very disappointed in that, and I don't think that will ever happen again,'' Tice said during his news conference. " If it does, I'd be very surprised. It's been addressed. . . . I have no recourse. There will be people saying I should fine him or I should bench him. But let's be realistic: I'm not going to bench a playmaker. So you can stop saying that, whoever's saying that.
"But you're talking about fine lines between enjoying the plays that we make, which I want the players to do -- I want them to play with emotion -- and being dumb. That was just flat-out dumb. . . . I can fine the player [for] conduct detrimental [to the team] and then it will be appealed and I'll lose the appeal, but my recourse is to hope the league fines the snot out of him. This way, someone's getting in his wallet. . . . The league can take the money from him and dock his pay and hopefully he'll realize, 'Gee, that wasn't worth 10 grand. I think next time I'll just stand over here with a cup of Gatorade and be quiet.' On second thought, I don't think he can be quiet.''
The league ordered game officials to crack down this season on choreographed celebrations, especially those involving multiple players. It was Campbell's second celebration penalty of the season. Culpepper's pass to Moss gave the Vikings a 28-14 lead in the fourth quarter. But the Texans took advantage of the 15-yard penalty on the ensuing kickoff to drive for the first of two late touchdowns that tied the game. . . .
The New York Jets might be without both their starting guards for Sunday's game against San Francisco. Pete Kendall has a bruised toe and Brandon Moore has a strained hamstring.
R. Williams Pressing Case
Attorney David Cornwell has asked to meet with NFL officials this week to discuss the status of retired Miami Dolphins tailback Ricky Williams. Those in Williams's camp are hopeful that he could be cleared to play this season, but the NFL's stance is that Williams is ineligible to play this season under terms of the league's substance-abuse policy. . . .
The winless Dolphins could be down to third-string quarterback Sage Rosenfels this week because of injuries to Jay Fiedler (broken rib) and A.J. Feeley (concussion). . . .
The Detroit Lions say that rookie wide receiver Roy Williams's sprained ankle isn't serious and he perhaps could play Sunday against the Packers. . . .
The Panthers expect to get tailback Stephen Davis back this week after losing his replacement, DeShaun Foster, for six to 10 weeks because of a broken collarbone. Foster has started the last three games since Davis underwent arthroscopic knee surgery. Davis planned to return Sunday against the Broncos, but failed to convince Coach John Fox during pregame warmups that he should be on the active roster for the game. The Panthers take a 1-3 record into Sunday's game at Philadelphia, a rematch of last season's NFC title game won by Carolina at Lincoln Financial Field.