It’s subject to change, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will play Juran Bolden as their nickel cornerback against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, learned Wednesday.

“Probably Juran Bolden,” Bucs defensive backs coach Mike Tomlin said when asked which player would play nickel cornerback for the Bucs. “We’re prepared to play both guys. We’re still in the process of deciding roles. He gets the nod this week and we’ll go from there.”

Bolden, who was signed during the offseason as a free agent, notched nine tackles, one interception, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and one pass defensed during preseason. He was – and still is — competing against third-year cornerback, Torrie Cox.

Although Bolden will play in nickel situations for the Bucs, head coach Jon Gruden suggested there was a chance the defense would work Cox into the rotation.

“We’re going to work with the top three corners we have,” said Gruden. “Ronde (Barber), Brian Kelly and Juran Bolden have obviously earned the right to be in the starting lineup. There are some other positions where we might see a guy for a series or two.”

Another position that is decided for Sunday is Tampa Bay’s right guard job. has learned that third-year G Sean Mahan will start in front of second-year G Jeb Terry at right guard.

The left guard spot is, however, still up for grabs. Matt Stinchcomb, who started all 16 games at left guard for the Bucs last season, is listed as probable on the injury report with a lower back strain. He’s being pushed by rookie G Dan Buenning.

No matter which player wins the starting job, Gruden suggested they had little to no room for error due to some stiff competition.

“We’ve got a pretty good idea of who we’re going to start,” Gruden said of the team. “At the same time, it’s competitive enough that if you’re not getting it done there will be a substitution.”

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will host the Official Season Kickoff Party on Friday at the Channelside District Courtyard in downtown Tampa.

The Official Season Kickoff Party, which is free and open to the public, is scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m. ET and includes scheduled appearances by Bucs general manager Bruce Allen, head coach Jon Gruden, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and several players, including wide receiver Michael Clayton, quarterback Brian Griese, safeties Dexter Jackson and Jermaine Phillips, linebacker Shelton Quarles and running back Carnell “Cadillac” Williams.

The Buccaneers cheerleaders and national recording artists Sister Hazel will provide entertainment for fans as the Red Cross collects cash donations to aid the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The Buccaneers play their first game of the 2005 regular season against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, Sept. 11.

It’s been nearly nine months since Tampa Bay took the field for a regular season game. Needless to say, the Bucs, who finished last season with a 5-11 record, are eager to get the bad taste out of their mouths and kick off the 2005 regular season.

“I definitely feel that we’re ready,” said Bucs wide receiver Michael Clayton. “It was a long time getting here, and a long wait. We have been anticipating this season, and it’s finally here. We have bonded and the way we connected while we were in training camp, we have a good feeling. I’m excited.”

For some players, like safety Jermaine Phillips, who missed almost half of the 2004 season with a broken arm, the start of the regular season is almost like a holiday.

“I am like a little kid at Christmas time,” said Phillips. “I am just ready for it to get started. After missing seven games last year it feels like I have been out of football for a year or two, so I am definitely looking forward to strapping it up.”

For other Bucs players, like their rookies, it will mark the first time they take the field for a regular season game.

“It is so different just to know that it counts,” said running back Cadillac Williams. “We are going in there trying to win a ball game and this is for real. This week I am going to better prepare myself. I am so excited. I just can’t wait.”

The ’05 NFL regular season kicks off on Thursday night when the Oakland Raiders visit the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. Some Bucs players wish their season started that early.

“I wish we were playing on Thursday. I’m jealous of the teams playing tomorrow night,” said Bucs quarterback Brian Griese. “But we’re all very excited. This has been a long wait for the first game of the year, through four preseason games, and training camp and the offseason. We’ve been working hard, doing a lot of work, a lot of time and energy. We’re looking forward to getting out there and actually playing.”

When Tampa Bay’s defense takes the field against Minnesota’s potent offense on Sunday, one important playmaker will be missing from the Vikings’ lineup.

Minnesota traded wide receiver Randy Moss to the Oakland Raiders during the offseason, and some wonder how much the loss of one of the league’s best receivers will impact the Vikings offense.

Although Moss isn’t a Viking, the Bucs insist there are more playmakers in Minnesota that must be accounted for, like quarterback Daunte Culpepper, who completed 69.2 percent of his passes and threw for 4,717 yards and tossed 39 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions en route to leading the Vikings to the playoffs last season.

“They still have Daunte Culpepper,” said Bucs cornerback Brian Kelly. “He didn’t lose any strength in his arm and he is still a big-time passer. They have weapons over there that they are very confident with. They have a lot of guys that can make big plays over there on offense.”

While Moss and his 574 career receptions and 90 touchdowns are now in Oakland, Minnesota has weapons to replace him, including wide receivers Nate Burleson and Marcus Robinson, and rookie Troy Williamson.

“It looks very similar,” Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said of the Minnesota offense. “The Vikings added Troy Williamson. He’s a great prospect. He made three big plays down the field during preseason. Nate Burleson is coming in to his own. It’s hard to replace a guy like Randy Moss, but when you have a quarterback like Daunte Culpepper, they do have a lot of expertise and experience around him. They’ve looked pretty good to me on tape.”

The Buccaneers have been pumping crowd noise through speakers during their practices this week, and for good reason.

Over 62,500 fans will pack the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on Sunday, and most of those people will be cheering on the Vikings as the visiting Buccaneers look to sneak out of Minneapolis with a win.

Bucs head coach Jon Gruden is all too familiar with the type of challenges the Metrodome bring to an opponent.

“I was there every year when I was with the Packers and I was there one time with the Raiders,” said Gruden. “It’s loud, man. It’s especially loud at the beginning of the season. They’re all cooped up during the offseason. See, they’re all inside, and they look forward to getting out and raising hell. It’s going to be loud as hell. It’s going to be unbelievable, and it’s going to be a challenge.”

Still, the Bucs insist they’re prepared to overcome the hostile environment the Metrodome presents.

“I mean as a concern I’m not overly worried,” said Bucs center John Wade. “I’m a realist in the fact that it is going to be loud, but I don’t think it’s going to be a disadvantage to us. There is communication on every play, but I don’t think it will be an issue.”

Throughout the offseason, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden made a point to mention the fact that he wanted second-year WR Michael Clayton to be better conditioned than he was a year ago.

Although offseason knee surgery made that tough, Clayton, who hauled in a team-high 80s passes in 2004, is apparently pleasing his head coach with that aspect of his game.

“I think his conditioning is okay,” Gruden said of Clayton. “He’s worked at it and made great strides. It’s a credit to him. At the same time, he’s wearing No. 80 for a reason. I want him to eat grapes and sleep nine hours a night, and make sure he’s taking great care of himself. We’re always going to be on him about that. That’s what the great players have had – great stamina in Week 7 or 8, or in their 11th or 12th year of their career they’ve had something in the tank to deliver in key situations. It’s good. We want it to be supreme, second to none. You can’t talk about it or ever say you’re in good enough shape. You’ve got to continue to work at it. He’s got that type of self-motivation and drive, and he’s certainly being pushed hard by a lot of people around him. I know that.”

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