Copyright 2007

While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were disappointed that Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn and Wisconsin left tackle Joe Thomas – two of the top stars expected to play for the North squad – weren’t participating at the Senior Bowl this week in Mobile, Ala., the Bucs’ brass still got the chance to have an up-close look at both elite prospects. has learned that the Bucs met with Brady on Monday afternoon and had dinner with Thomas on Monday night.

Thomas, who is rated as the top offensive line prospect in this year’s draft and is slated to be a top 5 pick, had originally agreed to participate in the Senior Bowl, much like D’Brickashaw Ferguson did last year, but backed out over injury concerns and the fact that his draft stock could not really climb much higher. NFL scouts spoke with on Monday suggested that Thomas had little to gain from practicing and playing in the Senior Bowl.

For Quinn, a minor knee injury sidelined him from the week’s activities, yet he was there on Sunday night and Monday meeting the coaching staffs of several teams, including Tampa Bay’s.

“It’s disappointing not to play, especially to my competitive side,” Brady told “Plus, I ended my career with a loss at the Sugar Bowl and I wanted another win. But once I consulted with my doctor about my knee he advised me not to play. I just had to take it with a grain of salt and begin preparing for the Combine and my pro day. My knee is coming along. Right now I’m just trying to be preventative in nature and try to get to 100 percent as soon as possible.”

Aside from not playing, Quinn said he was disappointed not to be able to be coached by the offensive mind of Tampa Bay’s Jon Gruden, who is heading up the North squad this year.

“I had an opportunity to meet with Jon Gruden last night and he’s a high-energy guy. He seems like a lot of fun. I would have loved to work with him. I would have had a good time this week. He was upset that I wasn’t playing for him.”

Quinn said he’s given a lot of thought to being possibly selected by the Buccaneers and playing for Gruden. While it may seem unlikely that Gruden would draft a quarterback in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft, the Bucs do need a franchise QB and Quinn has been tabbed as a franchise-caliber quarterback.

“Especially knowing ties and background to Notre Dame, it would be fun to go down there and play for Coach Gruden,” Quinn said. “One of my guys, wide receiver Maurice Stovall, is down there, along with another alum, Sean Mahan. It would be great to get in with those guys.”

Another Notre Dame player who had previously committed to play for Gruden’s North squad, but has backed out is Notre Dame wide receiver Jeff Samardijza, who signed a lucrative deal to pitch for the Chicago Cubs instead of entering the NFL Draft. Quinn commented on Samardijza’s decision to forego a football career.

“I’m extremely happy for him,” Quinn said. “Jeff is obviously going to do what is best for him. It’s a shame that he was such a great football player that we won’t get to see him play football anymore, but he’s such a talented pitcher. You have to respect the guy because he’s going to do what he wants to do.” does know that the Buccaneers were very high on Samardijza and would have considered using a second-round pick on the tall, talented Fighting Irish receiver. While they were disappointed in his decision to choose a career in baseball over football, the Bucs may still have a chance to draft Thomas or Quinn, even if neither player elected to participate in the Senior Bowl and be coached by Tampa Bay.

“It would have been nice to see Brady Quinn work with Coach Gruden and work with Paul Hackett for an entire week, and get a feel for how he learns and how he plays,” said Bucs pro personnel director Mark Dominik. “It’s not like we weren’t 4-12 – we were. We’re looking for anybody, whether it is a quarterback, a left tackle, a defensive lineman or a linebacker – whatever it is – we’re looking at them. Every chance they have to sell themselves helps.

“It would always be nice to see those top 10 guys come here and practice. The benefit we have by taking on the job of coaching in this game is that we get an inside feel of a player’s smarts, his intelligence and how he practices. From that standpoint, it’s disappointing. It would have been great for our coaching staff to coach Joe Thomas, and it would have been great for Joe Thomas to meet our coaching staff. But there are other guys out there who are trying to play. Maybe this is the opportunity that the Levi Brown kid from Penn State steps up and shows what he can do.”

The Buccaneers will be conducting scores of interviews with 2007 draft prospects during the Senior Bowl week in Mobile, but on Monday they already bagged two of the biggest names in Quinn and Thomas.

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