The Panthers improved their offense dramatically today, making the signing of high-profile WR Keyshawn Johnson official.
"We believe that we have a wide receiver and a football player who is going to have a huge impact on our football team over the next four years," Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said at the press conference on Friday.
When the idea of signing Johnson first came to light, most Panther fans shunned the idea. The common perception was that he'd want more money than the team could spend, and that he would be a locker room cancer that would tear apart a team that has a legitimate shot at making a run at the superbowl. Hurney painted a different picture.
"We had talked to a number of people who had been with Keyshawn and at a lot of different teams and we got nothing but very positive reports," said Hurney. "We knew what he could do as a player, but what he was like in the locker room and with coaches, everybody we talked to had the same thing to say. Keyshawn's a guy who if you know him for five minutes, you feel like you've known him a long time. He's an easy person to talk to. Right from the get go we got along, even when we started talking about money. He told me what he wanted and we went from there. He's everything that we heard he was from people we talked to. It's been a very pleasurable two days."
Johnson himself acknowledged the common perception that he's a problem in the locker room.
"Why does everyone keep signing me if I'm such a problem?" asked Johnson. "Why do these teams continue to invest dollars in a problem? I challenge anybody in this room to find one person in any locker room, training room, or anybody who has been associated with me to say that I've been a problem. Bring them to me, and I'll pay you some of that money. You have to think about it. When you're 20-whatever years old and you come to New York and make a big splash, and you write a book called "Just give me the damn ball," you're going to get that perception. It's going to carry over your career, just like it has. It rolls right off my back, and I go out there and play every single Sunday and I don't worry about it. At the end of the day, you have to worry about the things that are important, and that is winning football games."
Panther WR Steve Smith played a huge part in Johnson's signing. "Steve obviously is important to me," said Johnson. "That's why I came here. And I think that I'm going to be important to him. We're going to have a great working relationship. He'll beat me down the field a lot, but, hopefully, when he's beating me, he's going to the end zone."
During the press conference, Johnson heaped a great deal of praise on Smith. "It's Steve's passing game," Johnson acknowledged. "I understand that. I don't have any problems with that, because I'm going to do what I need to do to help the football team win. I didn't come here to try to catch 100 balls. I came here because I felt that this organization and this team was the closest of the teams I was looking at to getting to the Super Bowl. And I kid you not, Steve is definitely one of THE main reasons of me being here. Having a guy like that play opposite of you, what more could you want?"
"I know how to play football. And that young man (Smith) to me knows how to play football," continued Johnson. "He'll get his opportunities and I'll get mine. I've always done well, whatever team I've been on. But the guy opposite me has also done well. I think the only people who get caught up in who's the one and who's the two are fantasy football guys. They're reading numbers. Numbers don't mean anything. The only number that means something is how many rings you have on your finger."
Johnson made it clear though, that he wasn't just in Charlotte to play football, the single father of two intends to make the community a better place as well.
"One thing I've been able to do in my entire career is to become a part of the community I played in," said Johnson. "I want to be a part of this community."
"You're getting a guy who's going to come in here and bust his butt and lay it all on the field every single Sunday," Johnson said point blank.
"Hopefully, we'll put up some numbers not just statistically but also in the win column."