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In the latest shocking development from a championship team gone awry, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have deactivated former All-Pro wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson for the rest of the season, ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli reports.
According to Pasquarelli, Johnson has been told that he is excused from all team-related functions and that he will be inactive for the Buccaneers' six remaining games. Sources close to Johnson said they believe the move is a prelude to an eventual trade that would have to take place after the season. The NFL trading deadline for 2003 passed in October.
Buccaneers general manager Rich McKay has scheduled a news conference for 4 p.m. ET.
Although the team has not yet released an official reason for the move, Johnson had openly complained in recent weeks about not getting enough passes thrown his way and his on-again, off-again relationship with Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden is well documented.
Speaking with ESPN's Shelley Smith, Johnson reiterated his relationship problems with his coach, but expressed surprise at the Bucs' decision.
"Honestly, I'm very disappointed because I really wanted to win another championship with this team," he said. "I was never Gruden's guy. He never liked me. I told him I'd rather retire than play for him in 2004. But I also told him I wouldn't be a distraction, I wouldn't go to the media with it and I didn't. I don't know why they released me. I was playing hard, I wasn't dogging it. Tell everyone I'm in New York looking for apartments."
An eight-year veteran and the No. 1 overall pick in the 1996 NFL draft, Johnson has 45 catches for 600 yards and three touchdowns this season -- his fourth in Tampa Bay after starting his career with the New York Jets . For his career, Johnson has 603 catches for 7,936 yards and 48 touchdowns.