The Tampa Bay Buccaneers held their first of three organized team activities this week at One Buccaneer Place on Tuesday.
The Bucs were pleased by the player participation in Tuesday’s voluntary workout. They were especially pleased to see cornerback Brian Kelly and defensive end Simeon Rice, both of whom are recovering from surgery and had not participated in OTAs before Tuesday’s workout.
Kelly, 31, is recovering from a toe injury that required season ending surgery last season. He is just about 100 percent healthy and has opted not to participate in earlier OTAs so that he could be out West with his family.
There has been some speculation that Kelly might be contemplating a holdout from training camp since he has made it clear that he is not happy with his current contract, but the 10th-year veteran attempted to put an end to that speculation on Tuesday. “This is Tampa and unfortunately it’s very boring right now,” Kelly said when asked why he was the subject of some holdout rumors. “There’s nothing going on but football, so all you get to do is speculate about the Bucs. So, I’m the guy that’s being speculated about right now.”
Kelly has not made the Pro Bowl since entering the NFL in 1998. He has, however, recorded 17 interceptions since 2002, and Tampa Bay’s defense clearly has missed him when he’s not in the starting lineup.
But Kelly has had some trouble staying healthy. In fact, Kelly has had two of his past four seasons end prematurely due to injury.
Kelly has two years remaining on his current contract, and his base salary in 2007 is $3.6 million. He also received a $1 million roster bonus in March, which elevated his salary cap value to $4.4 million.
Bucs general manager Bruce Allen doesn’t make a habit of giving new deals to players who have more than one year remaining on their contracts. That said, Kelly might have to wait at least one more season before Tampa Bay’s front office seriously considers giving him the new contract he feels he’s worthy of.
“That would be nice,” Kelly said when asked if he wanted a new contract. “It’s the offseason and the time to talk about it is now. You don’t hear me talking about it during the regular season. That would be nice.
“I hope the fans appreciate me and I hope the management appreciates me. Don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t play the game for appreciation. I play the game because I enjoy it and love it, and I love playing with my teammates. They appreciate me and respect what I do. That’s all that matters.”
But even if he doesn’t receive a new contract before training camp begins, look for Kelly to report to Celebration Hotel near Orlando for the start of camp on July 26.
“I don’t play that game,” Kelly said in regards to holdouts. “That doesn’t get you where you need to get, and I understand that. I’m tired of the speculation. Fortunately, I’m not on this side of town. I don’t have to hear it and I don’t have to deal with it. You can keep talking about it and keep speculating about. The bottom line is I’m here now. I came to report to the team and see if we can get better.”
Rice, 33, is recovering from surgery that repaired his ailing shoulder last year. That shoulder injury hindered Rice’s efforts, evidenced by his two sacks before he landed on injured reserve in November.
The 6-foot-5, 268-pound Rice, who has recorded 121 career sacks, doesn’t have issues with his contract, which has one year remaining on it and is scheduled to pay him a team-high $7.250 million base salary in ’07.
But the Buccaneers did invest the fourth overall pick in April’s draft on DE Gaines Adams, who has been receiving extra reps while Rice works his way back into action.
Needless to say, Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, whose defense failed to finish the season ranked in the top 10 for the first time in a decade last year, is pleased to see Kelly and Rice participating in OTAs.
“That’s good,” said Kiffin. “They’re both coming off injuries and they’re rehabbing and stuff. This isn’t even mandatory, but they’re here when they don’t have to be here. They’re not 100 percent yet and that type of deal. This is a good feeling though that everybody is here because we need everybody. We’re going to need everybody this year.”
The Bucs will hold two more OTAs this week. Wednesday’s workout will be held at One Buccaneer Place. Thursday’s OTA is scheduled to be held at Raymond James Stadium.
Tampa Bay’s OTAs are not open to the public.
In other news, the Bucs signed tight end C.J. Leak to a contract Tuesday.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
C.J. Leak, who is the brother of former Florida Gators quarterback Chris Leak and the son of former Buccaneer wide receiver Curtis Leak, participated as a tryout player during Tampa Bay’s rookie mini-camp earlier this month.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Leak is a former quarterback at Wake Forest and Tennessee. He spent part of last season on the Buffalo Bills’ practice squad.
In order to make room for Leak on their roster, the Bucs released cornerback Kenny Scott.
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