BARBER FINED $30K FOR STRIKING OFFICIAL The National Football League fined Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber $30,000 Wednesday after it determined that the two-time Pro Bowler struck an official in a scuffle that took place last Sunday during the Bucs’ game vs. the New York Jets.
Barber’s punch was intended for Jets center Kevin Mawae, who had his hand on the cornerback’s facemask, but he struck official Butch Hannah in the process, which sent the referee to the ground.
Although he was not ejected, Barber was slapped with a 15-yard personal foul penalty shortly after the scuffle took place.
After Sunday’s game, Barber said the punch was not intended for Hannah and was made in self-defense. He plans to appeal the fine handed down by the league.
“Although this accidental incident was regrettable, Ronde was simply trying to remove the opposing player’s hands from his facemask,” Mark Lepselter, a business agent for Barber said in a statement released on Wednesday. “There was no intent whatsoever to harm the on-field official and Ronde immediately apologized to Mr. Hannah. The officiating drew assessed the situation and chose not to eject Ronde from the game due to the fact that he was not throwing a punch at the opposing player. Therefore, we feel this fine is excessive in nature.
“Ronde will take the normal course of action with regard to his appeal of the fine.”
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden came to the defense of his cornerback on Wednesday when asked about the $30,000 fine given to Barber.
“I don’t get into all of that,” said Gruden. “I’ll just say this: Of all the players that I have ever coached he ranks right at the top of the list. I promise you that he meant no harm by that incident. This should in no way symbolize what he is all about. That was an accident – I believe that. Hopefully the league, at the end of the day, will continue to look at this and will resolve that. We all have a lot of respect for No. 20 and hopefully we can put this behind us because this is one great football player and great guy.”
CADILLAC PRACTICES, READY TO GO? Bucs rookie running back Carnell “Cadillac” Williams returned to practice Wednesday after missing all of last week’s workouts and Sunday’s game vs. the New York Jets with a foot injury.
“It’s getting better,” said Williams. “Actually, I got a lot of work done today. I came out and practiced, ran around on it, so it feels pretty good.
“There’s still a little discomfort, but its’ football. You’re not going to go into every game feeling healthy. I definitely understand that. But overall, it actually did a lot better than I thought it was going to today.”
On Monday, Gruden announced that Williams would be probable for Sunday’s game vs. Miami, and although he did make it through the practice without incident, the Bucs have officially listed Williams as questionable for their next regular season contest.
“He looked okay,” Gruden said of Williams. “He still obviously has some lingering effects from the injury. He’s questionable. He’s not probable, he’s questionable. I got a little bit ahead of myself and I apologize. I was hoping he was probable. I said that with wishful thinking.”
The official injury report suggests he has a 50-50 chance of playing vs. the Dolphins, but Williams feels he’s got a pretty good shot of taking the field on Sunday.
“Realistically, I feel like there’s a pretty good chance I’ll play,” said Williams. “I came out and had a pretty good day today. I’ll come out tomorrow and see how it feels after a workload like this. I’m just going to take this thing day-by-day.”
Whether or not he plays on Sunday will depend on how his foot responds to practicing on it for the first time in more than a week. That means both Williams and the Bucs will have a much better feel for the rookie’s chances of playing on Sunday after they practice on Thursday afternoon at One Buccaneer Place.
“Tomorrow will be a pretty big day today,” said Williams. “I kind of worked out hard today and I have to come in tomorrow and see how it feels. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
If there’s any chance he can play through and with the lingering foot injury, Gruden said Williams is the type of player who can and will find a way to do it.
“We’re going to do what the trainer says,” said Gruden. “We’re all here to play games. If we’re able to play, we might have a scratchy throat, we might have something wrong with us, but if you can play, by Gosh, we’re going to play. Carnell Williams is that kind of kid. This kills him not to play now. If there’s any way he can play, I’m convinced he would go.”
BUCS SIGN RB SMART TO PRACTICE SQUAD The Bucs made two practice squad moves Wednesday, signing running back Ian Smart and releasing fullback Carey Davis.
Smart, who originally entered the NFL in 2003 as an undrafted free agent with the New York Jets, played in four games with Tampa Bay last season. He rushed the ball two times for 26 yards and hauled in two passes for 10 yards.
In addition to his duties on offense, Smart returned eight kickoffs for 167 yards in 2004.
The Bucs originally signed Davis onto their practice squad on Sept. 20.
JONES READY TO RETURN KICKOFFS The Bucs have an open competition at the kickoff returner position. Two players – cornerback Torrie Cox, who is in danger of losing that job, and wide receiver Mark Jones – spent Wednesday fielding kickoffs. The final decision in terms of who will return kickoffs for the Bucs will likely come later in the week.
“We don’t know just yet,” Jones said when asked who would be returning kickoffs vs. the Dolphins. “We have to go out there this week and take the reps. I think Torrie and I are going to rotate every other one. We’ll leave it up to the coaches to make that decision.”
Cox has muffed two kickoffs and is averaging just 16.7 yards per return this season. Jones, who is averaging 8.9 yards per punt return, returned three kickoffs for 49 yards (16.3 avg.) during Cox’s deactivation as a result of his DUI arrest.
Jones believes he will reap the benefits of the kickoff return experience he received earlier this season.
“Every time you get back there it makes you that much better and that much more comfortable,” Jones said of returning kickoffs.
The player that wins the kickoff return job must show an ability to field the ball cleanly and give the Bucs offense better starting field position.
“We’d like to get a good, solid reception on the ball, number one, and we’d like to make yards,” said Gruden. “We’ve got to block better and certainly we’ve got to eliminate the penalties on that unit, but we want to see good decisions and forward progress with the return game.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY Bucs QB Brian Griese on what he can do to help the offense:
“I can make better decisions. I need to stop turning the ball over in situations. I’ve put our defense in difficult situations and then start to make more plays. Those three things are what the quarterback position is responsible for and that’s what I’m working on.”
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