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: September 09, 2007, 10:02:19 AM

http://heraldtribune.com/article/20070909/SPORTS/709090854

Bucs looking for fresh start
By TOM BALOG



tom.balog@heraldtribune.com

SEATTLE -- Tampa Bay's history of losing on the West Coast should not mean anything to the 2007 Buccaneers. Certainly not to the 11 new starters -- seven on offense, four on defense -- who will take the field for today's opening game against the Seattle Seahawks.

None has any connection to the team's 0-5 record in regular-season games on the West Coast under head coach Jon Gruden, or the 3-25 all-time mark.

All, however, hope to have a hand in reversing last season's miserable 4-12 showing, beginning with the Seahawks.

That may be an especially difficult assignment. The three-time defending NFC West champions, who are 26-6 at home the past four regular seasons, feature many of the same players who were instrumental in their march to the Super Bowl in February 2006.

"I'm not going to make any excuses," Gruden said. "We have a first-class jet that we fly on. We stay in a five-star hotel and we eat well. We're going to be well-rested and well-prepared.

"Seattle's going to be a very difficult place to play, but we've got to pick it up."

Said Bucs running backs coach Art Valero: "There's no better game than the first game to get going. We're going to put together a great game plan for these guys."

One of the new starters, quarterback Jeff Garcia, offered this tried-and-true formula for winning despite traveling 2,700 miles from home, flying six hours and leaving Friday to have an extra day to allow their bodies to adapt to a three-hour time difference.

"It's a different sort of preparation," said Garcia, who will be starting his first game for the Bucs. "It is a long flight. But it's really about focus ... being prepared throughout the week so that when Sunday comes, you're just reacting. You're not allowing the elements to rattle or confuse you.

"It's going to be loud and they have a very aggressive defense. It's important that we strike back. We need to deliver blows."

Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said the Bucs don't have it as bad as his team does traveling east. Teams in the NFL are used to a set routine, deviations from which render a game plan useless.

"I always thought it was harder to go east than it was to come west," Holmgren said on a conference call last week. "Because I've made more trips that way. Any way you slice it, it's time on the plane, the extra day. They're big guys, they have to fly and be in hotels an extra day. It's just different."

Gruden is convinced that his team is best prepared to open the season, based on all his criteria.

"Looking at the film, looking at the (video) cut-ups, looking at our personnel, we're better now," Gruden said. "That will give us a better chance to succeed. Monte Kiffin and Rich Bisaccia are still with me. (So are) a lot of guys who won a world championship here."

Gruden said he was not going to do anything differently in a season when he is widely thought to be coaching for his job.

"You either feel pressure and turn into a basket case, or you just keep doing what you do," Gruden said. "We're just going to keep with the program, steering it in the right direction and we're confident we can get it going."

"He handles it well," defensive coordinator Kiffin said. "He doesn't carry anything around with him. He just coaches straight ahead and stays positive. That's what you've got to do."

Holmgren is a staunch defender of Gruden, his one-time protegé. Holmgren hired Gruden in 1990 as a quality control coach in San Francisco, and later appointed him the wide receivers coach with Green Bay in 1992.

"I don't think those things (being under pressure) bother Jon," Holmgren said. "Jon has his eyes wide open. He's an outstanding football coach. Really, every team goes through cycles. He's won a Super Bowl and now he's trying to build something back up again. He puts a lot of pressure on himself, as we all do."

Holmgren believes that the tandem of Gruden, who runs his own offense, and Kiffin, is one of the most formidable in the league.

"I always know this: (When) You're going to play the Bucs, you know you're going to have to play (against) Gruden. You know you're going to have to play Monte Kiffin," Holmgren said. "So that's the challenge there."

The Seahawks' offense led by quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (24-7 in starts at Qwest Field) and running back Shaun Alexander figures to create problems for the Bucs.

"They're a very efficient offense," Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks said. "They don't have a lot of plays where they lose yards."

"The've got a great quarterback, a great coach, a heck of a running back and the best left tackle (Walter Jones) in the league," Gruden said. "Defensively, they've added a lot of players in free agency -- (linebacker) Julian Peterson, two new safeties (Deon Grant, Brian Russell). I think (Marcus) Trufant's an excellent corner. They present a lot of problems."

Bucs notebook

WR David Boston accompanied the team to Seattle and will play today despite a pending DUI charge from his arrest last month in Pinellas County.

DE Patrick Chukwurah (knee) is the only player ruled out for the Bucs.

Morgan

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#1 : September 09, 2007, 10:14:30 AM

Optimistic article. Nice read. Props to Holmgren for what he said and props to the Sarasota Herald for a little postive vibes toward the local team (unlike St Pete and Tampa papers).
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