Johnson turns down Titans, retires to work for ESPN

LOS ANGELES -- Keyshawn Johnson has caught the damn ball in
the NFL for the last time.

Johnson, who played a great game and talked one as well during
an 11-year career, retired Wednesday despite several offers to
continue playing.

He'll soon be expressing his strong opinions on ESPN.

"I wouldn't trade my career for anyone's," Johnson said at a
news conference on the University of Southern California campus,
where he starred before the New York Jets made him the first
overall selection in the 1996 draft.

"I've done everything I wanted to do in my career," he said.
"I just couldn't find one thing that could drive me back to
playing football. As I learned from Bill Parcells -- the circus
doesn't stay in town very long."

Johnson has agreed to a multiyear contract, and will appear on
several ESPN telecasts, including pre-game shows on Sundays and
Monday nights, and do some radio work as well.

At ESPN, Johnson will join the crew of Sunday NFL Countdown and Monday Night Countdown as an analyst. He will also contribute to a new weekly ESPN Radio NFL show hosted by Chris Mortensen and Bill Parcells.

"We're still working on all the different platforms they want
me to be a part of," he said.

Johnson, who turns 35 in July, was released three weeks ago by
the Carolina Panthers. He said at least a half-dozen teams offered
him a new job.

"Those guys were terrific, from Lane Kiffin to Bill Belichick
to Jeff Fisher," Johnson said, referring to the coaches in
Oakland, New England and Tennessee, respectively. "They all wanted
me to play football for them. At the end of the day, it just didn't
fit into what I wanted to do now."

Jerome Stanley, Johnson's agent, said his client agreed to terms
on what he called a substantial deal with ESPN.

"We're very, very pleased," Stanley said, adding that the
Titans offered close to $8 million for two years, with most of the
money guaranteed.

I've done everything I wanted to do in my career. I just couldn't find one thing that could drive me back to
playing football. As I learned from Bill Parcells -- the circus
doesn't stay in town very long.

Keyshawn Johnson

Fisher said Johnson informed him he was retiring Wednesday

"He let me know that this decision had nothing to do with us
and everything to do about him and his desire to move into the
broadcasting business and leave his playing days behind," Fisher
said. "I've known Keyshawn for a long time and I am happy he is
able to walk away on his own terms after a very successful

Fisher became friends with Johnson while he played at USC and
Johnson was a ball boy.

Johnson became the 16th player in NFL history to reach 800
career receptions and the 26th with 10,000 receiving yards last
season, when he caught 70 passes for 815 yards and four touchdowns
for the Carolina Panthers.

He finishes with 814 receptions for 10,571 yards and 64
touchdowns in 167 games.

"I wavered time and time again," Johnson said. "I've lived my
dream. Now, I'm going to live another dream. I think today is not
as emotional as the last two weeks, thinking about it. There were
times there were sleepless nights, wondering if this was the right
thing to do."

Parcells became Johnson's coach with the Jets in 1997 -- a year
after Johnson caught 63 passes as a rookie for a team that went
1-15. Following that season, he wrote a book: "Just Give Me The
Damn Ball," which proved popular with fans if not his teammates.

Johnson eventually earned the nickname "Me-shawn" for that,
but his coaches, particularly Parcells, considered him a hard
worker and versatile player. Parcells once called Johnson one of
the best he'd coached.

But Johnson did have a feud with Jets receiver Wayne Chrebet
when they played together and, less than a year after helping Tampa
Bay win the 2003 Super Bowl, Johnson's spat with Buccaneers coach
Jon Gruden got him suspended for the final six games of the season.

"If people are concentrating on one incident that happened in
Tampa a long time ago, I think they're looking at the wrong
thing," Johnson said.

He then joined Parcells and the Cowboys, where he had two
productive seasons, with 141 catches and 12 touchdowns.

The Panthers signed Johnson last year after he was released by
Dallas in a salary cap move so the Cowboys could sign Terrell
Owens. While Owens had 85 catches for 1,180 yards and 13 TDs last
year as the focal point of the passing game in Dallas, Johnson
performed well as the No. 2 receiver behind Steve Smith in

Johnson worked the NFL draft last month for ESPN, which was
impressed enough to offer him a job. He was released by Carolina
three days after the Panthers took former USC star wide receiver
Dwayne Jarrett in the second round.

"When Keyshawn decided to retire from football, we jumped at
the chance of adding him to our NFL roster, especially after his
impressive on-air performance during the NFL draft," ESPN
executive vice president Norby Williamson said. "He delivered
passionate opinions and candid analysis, attributes that will make
him a first-rate analyst in his new career."

Johnson said Carolina's decision to release him was a surprise.

"It never crossed my mind," Johnson said. "It'll happen to a
ton of other guys. You have to be prepared for what goes on in the
National Football League. Once I was released from Carolina, it
speeded up the process."

Johnson said retirement will enable him to spend more time with
his 8-year-old son, who supported his decision, and his 11-year-old
daughter, who wasn't so sure.

"My daughter wasn't extremely excited because she has yet to
get Michael Vick's autograph," Johnson said.

On a more serious note, he said: "I need to give something back
-- watch them grow."

He'll get that chance now.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.