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Copyright 2007 PewterReport.com

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Here are some things that caught my attention this week:

FAB 1. Did you notice something different about the Buccaneers defense against the Arizona Cardinals two weeks ago? Defensive tackle Ryan Sims was active and got a few snaps on defense after being inactive for the first seven weeks. Sims was active against Jacksonville, but didn’t log any snaps on defense.

In just a handful of plays, Sims recorded three tackles against Arizona, and on his first defensive snap for the Buccaneers, he dropped Cardinals running back Edgerrin James for a loss. Plays like that could and should afford him more playing time in the weeks ahead.

It has taken a while for Sims to come in, learn the defense and get in playing shape. At 6-foot-4, 315 pounds, Sims is the biggest defensive lineman on the Buccaneers roster. And the Bucs have high hopes for the former first-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs. Tampa Bay is looking at the 27-year-old Sims, who was the sixth-overall pick in 2002, as a project for the future, and even extended his contract in May through 2008 to illustrate that point.

“When my agent called me and said they wanted to extend my contract, I was like, ‘Huh? I haven’t even played for them yet,’” said Sims. “But it was just a vote of confidence. They expect me to step up to the next level and that’s all I want to do – just keep working. This is a great situation. It’s always great when somebody wants you.”

After five years of being labeled a bust in Kansas City after producing just five sacks, Sims’ career has been reborn in Tampa Bay. The Bucs hope that they can find the Sims that recorded 14 sacks, 28 tackles for loss, 11 passes defensed and 40 quarterback pressures as a three-year starter next to defensive end Julius Peppers at the University of North Carolina.

Tampa Bay’s plan for Sims was to pretty much “redshirt” him in 2007 as he learns the defense and bring him along slowly. In 2008, he could push Chris Hovan for a starting job at nose tackle or even possibly challenge Jovan Haye for the under tackle spot.

“It’s a great learning experience for me,” Sims said. “I get to play for a great defense and a great defensive coordinator in Coach [Monte] Kiffin. It’s just great to be around guys like Kevin Carter and Chris Hovan and Greg Spires. I can really learn from these guys. They are seasoned veterans. They’ve been there and done that. It’s great.”

Sims said that he was not able to really establish himself in Kansas City because of the turnover there from a roster and coaching staff standpoint, and because of the lack of proven veterans that weren’t around to mentor him in his first few years in the NFL.

“There was no mentorship there,” Sims said. “When I was in Kansas City we weren’t much to talk about as a defense. We had a lot of changes and a lot of new people coming through there. It wasn’t a grooming situation. I didn’t get groomed in the proper manner like Gaines Adams is being groomed here. He has the opportunity to become a great player. He sees guys like Kevin Carter do what it takes to play in this league for 13 years. He has a chance to be a great one like Carter is. I didn’t have that environment, but that’s no excuse. I’m just trying to take in as much as I can now that I’m here, and work my way on to the field.

“I am approaching this situation like I’m a rookie again – like I have a clean slate. Now I can show these guys what I’m about. Not what they’ve heard about me – what I’m really about.”

So what exactly was the word about Sims from the Kansas City media on his way out of town?

“They had me painted as a selfish guy,” Sims said. “That’s definitely not me. There were so many players and coaches coming and going, the only person that I knew that was going to be there next week was me. That was one thing I didn’t really like. I wanted to cling to somebody when I was there, but the only person I could turn to was myself.”

After starting 33 games in Kansas City, being inactive for the first half of the 2007 season came as quite a shock for Sims, but he views the opportunity to learn while watching from the sidelines as a positive for his long-term development as a player.

“It’s a pride check, definitely a pride check,” Sims said. “But I’ve talked to Hovan and he told me about his days in Minnesota. They deactivated him for a year and look what he’s doing today. Spires has been with three different teams. To have a long career, there are going to be some bumps in the road. As a man, you have to overcome them or they’re going to overcome you. I’m just taking advantage of the time I can to rest my body and learn how to play Buc ball.”

The one thing Sims found difficult to learn was exactly how simplistic Tampa Bay’s defense actually is. There are very few new wrinkles that Kiffin puts in on a weekly basis compared to essentially learning an entirely new defense every week in Kansas City.

“We played one gap and in some situations we played two-gap,” Sims said. “Here the defense is more about skill development. They are going to put you in a simple defense and let your skills take over to make the play. Then you can just go out and play football. Some of the coaches I had in Kansas City it was more of, ‘I want to put you here.’ They were going to coach you into a play rather than let you play into a play. There was a lot more thinking and stunting. Here it’s about going out and playing football. You get your ‘A gap’ assignment and if you can make a play in the ‘B gap’ or ‘C gap’ then make it.

“It’s funny to me because here we have about six basic blitzes and that’s it. In Kansas City, we would put in about 15 new ones each week and we would struggle to learn it because it was so new to us. It’s not like you are concentrating on what you do well, you are more worried about what the other team is going to do. We were always changing up our defense. Our defensive ranking showed that we weren’t doing something right.”

So when did he realize he wasn’t in Kansas anymore?

“The first day,” Sims said. “After the first week of OTAs, I said, ‘Wow! Is this our defense?’ Then in training camp I was waiting, thinking, ‘When are they going to add the 50,000 blitzes?’ I kept waiting for them to come. That’s when I realized this defense was about reading and reacting. You play a simple gap and you go and make a play. You have to have speed to be able to do that and make plays in the defense.”

Having that speed meant that Sims had to shed some weight and get in better shape. He’s dropped about 15 pounds since his arrival in Tampa Bay last spring and his hard work behind the scenes paid off against Arizona. Despite the fact that it was November, the kickoff heat index was in the mid-80’s.

“I’ve been trying to get in shape,” Sims said. “For the last five years I’ve lived in Miami during the offseason, so it hasn’t been that hard. The weather is a lot better here than in Kansas City. In Kansas City I would be wearing jeans and a sweatshirt right now. I left all my Kansas City clothes in Kansas City.

“Every day in practice I go out and lose about eight pounds. Right now I’m about 310-315 pounds. I feel real good. When I first got here and they said they wanted me to play nose tackle, I was thinking about AFC nose tackles. With Vince Wilfork, Sam Adams and Ted Washington, the skinniest one is 325-330 pounds. Then I get here and I thought, ‘Dang, this is the skinniest defensive line I’ve seen.’ Between these guys and Indianapolis, these are the smallest defensive lines I’ve ever seen.”

After getting his weight down and getting into shape while learning the Tampa 2, Sims’ last challenge will be getting acclimated to playing the nose tackle position in a game day atmosphere on Sundays.

“I had a lot of experience at under tackle,” Sims said. “Here, this is my first experience playing nose tackle. I’m very comfortable with it now. I’ve learned a lot from Chris and from Coach [Larry] Coyer. I feel really comfortable playing either. I’m just a bigger, faster defensive lineman now”

The Bucs are anxious to see how he produces down the stretch in 2007 as they hope he will become a big factor in the team’s 2008 plans. Good, young defensive tackles are hard to find. If Coyer can coach up Sims like former defensive line coach Rod Marinelli did with Hovan, the Bucs will have quite a find.

FAB 2. Before Tampa Bay takes the field again, let’s break down some film and talk some X’s and O’s. I had a chance to watch the game film of the Buccaneers’ 17-10, must-win victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Here are some of my insights regarding the game:

• Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett is a nasty dude with a real mean streak in him. I haven’t seen a nastier defensive tackle since Warren Sapp. Dockett isn’t in Sapp’s class as a player, but he’s fairly close. He plays with great intensity, and like Sapp, was prone to a cheap shot or two in a game. The whole dust-up at the end of the game between Dockett, Cardinals outside linebacker Calvin Pace and Buccaneers offensive linemen Davin Joseph and Jeremy Trueblood centered around Dockett’s antics. With 2:23 left in the first half, Dockett sacked quarterback Jeff Garcia with his arm around Garcia’s neck. After throwing Garcia to the ground, Dockett pinned him down, twisted Garcia’s neck and sat down on him as he tried to get up. Tampa Bay’s offensive linemen didn’t retaliate on that play, but Trueblood obviously took a mental note. Then late in the game with victory for the Bucs was at hand, Dockett swatted the ball just as center John Wade snapped it, causing it to go between Garcia’s legs where wide receiver Joey Galloway fell on it. Amazingly, both line judges missed it and there was no penalty on the play. Trueblood, Dockett and Pace started jawing and pushing each other in the face. Then Trueblood lunged at Pace and accidentially bumped an official, which caused him to get ejected and fined $15,000. Tight end Alex Smith tackled Trueblood to prevent him from getting into an altercation.

• Tampa Bay broke out a unique defensive alignment against Arizona. On one series, the Bucs used their beefiest defensive linemen with Kevin Carter (6-foot-6, 305 pounds) at left end, Chris Hovan (6-foot-2, 296 pounds) at under tackle, Ryan Sims (6-foot-4, 315 pounds) at nose tackle and Greg White (6-foot-3, 268 pounds) at right end. Against this formation, the Cardinals ran the ball twice for a collective gain of three yards. On third-and-7, defensive line coach Larry Coyer shuffled the lineup once again, moving Carter inside to under tackle and inserting Jovan Haye, who leads the team with four sacks, in at nose tackle. Rookie Gaines Adams replaced Carter at left end, while White stayed at right end. I have to think that when defensive end Patrick Chukwurah comes back from his shoulder injury that he will replace White at right end in obvious passing situations. I like the personnel groupings of the Bucs’ “beef” and “speed” packages and we should see more of these groupings in the future as Coyer now knows the strengths and weaknesses of his players after seeing them in battle for half a season.

• Why do the Buccaneers miss running back Michael Pittman so much? It’s not just the speed he brings to the table as a running back, nor his great hands as an outlet receiver. It’s pass protection. While Earnest Graham has done a solid job running the football and catching passes out of the backfield after replacing the injured Pittman and Cadillac Williams, he still doesn’t have a lot of experience in blitz pick up and it showed at the 3:30 mark on the second quarter of the Arizona game. Cardinals linebacker Gerald Hayes came through the “B” gap between guard and center untouched with Graham as the only person standing between Hayes and quarterback Jeff Garcia. Hayes blasted Graham and pancaked him, knocking off his own helmet at the time, and corralling Garcia for a vicious sack. That’s the kind of play Jon Gruden hates to see and why he puts so much emphasis on blitz pick-up and pass protection when he evaluates running backs. Pittman’s pass protection prowess is one of his strongest attributes, which is why Gruden is such a big Pittman fan. That’s also why Gruden was upset that the Bucs let Warrick Dunn go in free agency in 2002 because Dunn is one of the NFL’s best backs at picking up the blitz. Because Gruden’s offense is quarterback-oriented, you can see why Gruden is so picky when it comes to running backs. One failed blitz pick-up like the one Graham had on Sunday could send Garcia to the bench with an injury.

FAB 3. If you read my Buccaneer Blitz column from the November issue of Pewter Report, you’ll know that I think the Bucs’ brass needs to address the running back position in the offseason either in free agency or the 2008 NFL Draft. The reason is because starting halfback Cadillac Williams likely won’t be ready for the start of the 2008 season due to the extensive rehab that goes with a torn patellar tendon.

Throw in the fact that veterans Michael Pittman and Michael Bennett are unrestricted free agents next March and Tampa Bay’s running game gets boiled down to Earnest Graham and that’s it. Now I suspect that both Pittman and Bennett will be back in 2008, but I’m not sure Williams will. And if he is, there is no way he will be 100 percent healthy physically and mentally. I doubt Williams will have the confidence to cut and move like he used to.

There isn’t supposed to be a slew of great running backs on the open market in 2008. San Diego backup Michael Turner is expected to be the biggest name of the running backs. The Bucs will also have some interest in Minnesota reserve rusher Mewelde Moore.

Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, the crop of senior running backs in 2008 is mediocre. Michigan’s Mike Hart is the headliner, followed by East Carolina’s Chris Johnson, Georgia Tech’s Tashard Choice, Oklahoma State’s Dantrell Savage, Kentucky’s Rafael Little, Houston’s Anthony Alridge, Oregon State’s Yvenson Bernard and Ole Miss’ Benjarvus Green-Ellis. Of this group, only Hart figures to garner first-round consideration, and that may not even happen due to his track record of injuries. Johnson and Choice may be first-day prospects, but the rest seem destined for the second day of the draft.

Now if a bunch of junior running backs enter the draft that changes everything. Then the running back position goes from being a mediocre crop to very good. The players I’m talking about are Arkansas’ Darren McFadden, Rutgers’ Ray Rice, Central Florida’s Kevin Smith, Illinois’ Rashard Mendenhall, Oregon’s Jonathan Stewart, and West Virginia’s Steve Slaton. If three of these backs forego their senior eligibility, then the running back position in the draft improves greatly.

McFadden is expected to be the first back taken if he enters the draft, and I doubt the Bucs will be picking in the top 10 in the 2008 NFL Draft. If Rice were to enter the draft, he likely would be a top 20 pick, and that might be out of Tampa Bay’s realm, too.

I’ll go into all of these players in more depth in January and February in our new regular feature, 2008 Bucs Draft Prospect, but in the meantime, let me just familiarize you with some of these junior rushers.

Rice is a compact back like Hart and runs with great body lean. Both weigh in at 205 pounds and stand 5-foot-9. Rice has been a model of productivity for Rutgers and is one of the biggest reasons for that school’s rise to prominence. Rice rushed for 1,120 yards on 195 carries (5.74 avg.) and scored five touchdowns as a senior. He had a breakout season in 2006, rushing for 1,794 yards on an amazing 335 carries (5.35 avg.), scoring 20 touchdowns. Rice has been pretty productive despite losing a couple of blockers upfront, rushing for 1,500 yards on 289 carries (5.2 avg.) and scoring 16 touchdowns.

Rice has also become a bigger weapon in the passing game in 2007, catching 23 passes for 224 yards and one touchdown after catching 12 passes for 95 yards during his first two seasons with the Scarlet Knights. He reminds me of Emmitt Smith and Tiki Barber and I think Rice is a quicker, healthier and more explosive version of Hart. I think he would be an ideal fit in Tampa Bay as long as he improves his pass protection.

Another great fit for the Buccaneers would be Stewart, who also has experience as a kick returner. After returning two kickoffs for touchdowns as a freshman and averaging 33.7 yards per return, Stewart maintained a 28.1-yard return average as a sophomore and a 27.7-yard average as a junior.

As a runner, the 5-foot-11, 230-pound Stewart reminds me of Corey Dillon due to his intriguing mix of power and speed. After rushing for six touchdowns and 188 yards on 53 carries as a freshman, Stewart became a workhorse back in 2006, rushing for 981 yards and 10 scores on 183 carries (5.3 avg.). In 2007, Stewart has fared even better with 1,142 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns on 177 carries (6.5 avg.).

Stewart has good pass-catching skills with 43 career catches for 287 yards and three scores. He’s a different type of halfback than Jon Gruden has coached in Tampa Bay, but he would still be an ideal fit. Depending on how fast he times in the 40-yard dash, Stewart could be drafted in the first or second round.

Mendenhall is actually a more natural receiver than either Stewart or Rice. He doesn’t have the body of work from a production standpoint that either Rice or Stewart has, but Mendenhall is having a great junior campaign with 218 carries for 1,402 yards (6.4 avg.) and 14 touchdowns. This comes on the heels of a sophomore season in which he carried the ball 78 times for 640 yards (8.2 avg.) and five scores, and rushed for 218 yards on 48 carries (4.5 avg.).

When it comes to catching the ball, the 5-foot-11, 224-pound Mendenhall, who has a build similar to Stewart’s, has 51 career catches for 476 yards and five touchdowns, including 26 grabs for 230 yards and two scores in 2007. Should Mendenhall leave school early, he figures to be drafted in rounds 2-3, depending on how fast he times in the 40. Like Stewart and Rice, Mendenhall would be a solid fit in Tampa Bay’s offense.

Smith, who is the nation’s second-leading rusher, is an interesting rusher because of his upright running style that is reminiscent of Hall of Famer Marcus Allen or University of Florida great Ciatrick Fason. At 6-foot-1, 211 pounds, Smith is a big back with the ability to break tackles, although he doesn’t do it with power. Instead, Smith uses a wicked stiff-arm or wiggles out of tackles with his Allen-esque agility.

Smith rushed for 1,232 yards and nine touchdowns on 249 carries (4.9 avg.) as a freshman, followed by 954 yards and seven scores on 206 carries (4.6 avg.). Smith has raised his game in 2007 running behind an average line and tallying 1,768 yards and 22 touchdowns on 310 carries (5.7 avg.).

He has also hauled in 49 catches for 402 yards and one touchdown in his career, including 18 receptions for 200 yards and his lone TD in 2007. Smith doesn’t have great speed, but is an elusive open-field runner, who always falls forward and gets the most out of his carries. I could see him in a Buccaneer uniform, but I think I’d rather have Stewart or Rice first. Smith could be drafted in rounds 2-3 depending on how fast he times.

I’m not sold on the prospects of Slaton having a lot of success in the NFL. He’s very small at 5-foot-10, 190 pounds and has had several nagging injuries that have limited his effectiveness at times. He’s underwhelmed as a junior and will barely pass the 1,000-yard mark after rushing for 1,864 yards and 16 touchdowns on 248 carries last year (7.5 avg.). He’s a dangerous open-field runner with good hands, but I don’t know how well he would fare in Tampa Bay. He may be better suited for a zone running scheme like Denver where he could use his cutting ability to take advantage of cutback lanes.

Because Tampa Bay needs a premier back to replace Williams in 2008, the Bucs have to hope that several of these juniors come out to turn the running back position into a strength of the 2008 NFL Draft.

FAB 4. So what did some Buccaneers do during the bye week? Well, I saw Bucs running back Michael Pittman and rookie linebacker Adam Hayward at Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park in Orlando, Fla. on Sunday with their significant others. The weather was perfect and the two Bucs seemed ready for a day of non-contact fun on a Sunday for a change.

I haven’t had a chance to speak to all of the players, but it’s doubtful that anyone had a better bye week than middle linebacker Barrett Ruud. Ruud, the all-time leading tackler at the University of Nebraska (432) went back to his alma mater to watch his brother, Bo, a senior linebacker play his last home game in Lincoln. Ruud was also on hand to witness his Cornhuskers shake off a five-game losing streak and destroy my alma mater, Kansas State, 73-31.

A week after getting humiliating by unbeaten Kansas, 76-39, Nebraska did some humiliating of its own and Ruud was on hand to witness it.

There is another Buccaneer angle to this story aside from Ruud’s presence at the game. Former Tampa Bay defensive backs coach Greg Burns was there on the K-State sidelines as the secondary coach, watching his players get scorched for 510 passing yards. Huskers quarterback Joe Ganz completed 20-of-30 passes for half a thousand and a school-record seven touchdowns on the hapless Wildcats.

Remember how clueless strong safety Jermaine Phillips looked last year in Tampa Bay under Burns? That’s how safety Marcus Watts, an All-Big 12 performer before Burns’ arrival in Manhattan, has become. K-State’s secondary is in disarray under Burns, just like Tampa Bay’s secondary was a year ago.

I was at Islands of Adventure on Saturday with my family when I found out the K-State score on Saturday. That prompted me to text 31-year old Bucs defensive backs coach Raheem Morris, who was the Wildcats defensive coordinator last year.

“Get your ass back to Manhattan!” I texted to Morris.

“R U kidding me?” he replied.

“The Corn(huskers) dropped 73 on KSU today! Kill me now.” I texted.

About five minutes later my cell phone rang and it was Morris. We talked about the game for about 10 minutes and about the impact he made last year in his first and only year as a defensive coordinator. K-State doesn’t have the talent that it used to in the 1990s, yet Morris schemed a unit that produced 40 sacks, which led the Big 12 last year. On Saturday, K-State had just one sack and only has 28 on the year.

As I hung up the phone I reflected on a conversation I had with former Bucs linebackers coach Joe Barry last January at the Senior Bowl. I asked him how Tampa Bay would fare in 2007 after a dreadfully disappointing 4-12 record in ’06. Barry said he thought the Bucs would be better and that I shouldn’t be too worried. He also said that general manager Bruce Allen had already made a fantastic move by reeling Morris in from K-State just after New Year’s Day.

He said that it was not only smart going after Morris, but noted that Allen did so before Barry, who became Detroit’s defensive coordinator, and Mike Tomlin, who was named Pittsburgh’s head coach, could pounce on him. Just looking at what Morris has done this year from a production standpoint with Phillips and rookie safety Tanard Jackson and helping the Bucs become the NFL’s number one pass defense, and seeing how far K-State’s defense has fallen, Morris’ impact on both programs is clear.

Want another Buccaneer angle to the K-State vs. Nebraska game? Despite putting up all those points and getting a win on Senior Day, Nebraska is still 5-6 and will likely not get to bowl game. That record will cost head coach Bill Callahan his job. Callahan, who was Jon Gruden’s offensive line coach in Oakland, could resurface in Tampa Bay in that same capacity if Bill Muir does not return. Callahan, who replaced Gruden as the Raiders head coach in 2002 and lost to his former boss in Super Bowl XXXVII, and Gruden are still good friends. Could Callahan be the eighth former Raider to become a Buccaneer, joining Gruden, Allen, director of football operations Mark Arteaga, Gruden’s assistant Paul Kelly, senior assistant offensive line coach Aaron Kromer and legal counsel Roxanne Kosarzycki? We’ll find out in January.

FAB 5. Here are some things that will hold you over until the next SR’s Fab Five:

• Don’t get me wrong. Tampa Bay’s offensive line has shown some real improvement this year in run blocking, but I’m not as convinced that the pass protection has really improved. Let’s face it. The scrambling ability of quarterback Jeff Garcia has prevented a number of sacks. I can’t put a real number on it, but my guess is that if Brad Johnson, Brian Griese, Chris Simms or Bruce Gradkowski were quarterbacking the Bucs this year, Tampa Bay would have given up about six or seven more sacks this year. Through nine games this season, Tampa Bay has only allowed 16 sacks – 14 of Garcia and two of backup Luke McCown – after surrendering 33 sacks last year. The Bucs are on pace to allow just 28 sacks this year – mostly thanks to Garcia’s mobility.

• Unless Barrett Ruud comes up with more turnovers down the stretch, the guess here is that he won’t make the Pro Bowl. The reason? Third-year veteran Lofa Tatupu is a two-time Pro Bowler and Brian Urlacher is a household name who has been to Hawaii on several occasions. Ruud leads the NFL with 109 tackles, and has forced three fumbles, recovered two and has one interception. The only problem is that Urlacher has three sacks and an interception, while Tatupu has one sack, three forced fumbles and an interception. The fact that Seattle and Chicago have had multiple games on national TV this year also helps their cause and hurts Ruud. Tampa Bay’s lone national TV exposure comes on December 23 at San Francisco, but Pro Bowl voting will already be over by then. If Ruud can separate himself from Urlacher and Tatupu by forcing more turnovers and getting into the sack column he will have a chance at the upset. If not, he will simply be talked about as one of the deserving players who have gotten robbed of a Pro Bowl berth.

• Sports Illustrated’s Don Banks gave Tampa Bay’s front office high marks for signing quarterback Jeff Garcia in the offseason. He also illustrated why overpaying big names in free agency is always not always the right approach by stating that San Francisco had done the worst front office work of the offseason, signing cornerback Nate Clements, wide receivers Darrell Jackson and Ashley Lelie, outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain and safety Michael Lewis. Throw in defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin and the total contracts for those players exceeds $120 million. “Stop me when I get to a 49ers acquisition who has been worth the effort and money it took to land him,” Banks said of the 2-7 49ers. Tampa Bay took a conservative approach and spent a fraction of the money that San Francisco did in free agency and is not only winning in 2007, but didn’t kill the salary cap for years to come by doling out signing bonuses like the 49ers did. Clements got over $21 million in bonus money, according to ESPN.com and a website called ninercaphell.com. The signing bonuses of all the players the Bucs signed this offseason doesn’t equal $21 million. It equals just $11.5 million. Just because you win in March, doesn’t mean that you’ll win in September, October, November or December.

• Are the Bucs interested in former Oakland wide receiver Mike Williams? In the words of Borat, “Not so much.” Yes, the Tampa Tribune did report that the Bucs were interested in Williams, and alluded to the fact that Williams had visited with Tampa Bay. But Pewter Report has found out that no such meeting occurred and no visit is scheduled. One Bucs source told me that Tampa Bay already has some players that resemble the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Williams in receivers Michael Clayton (6-foot-4, 215) and Maurice Stovall (6-foot-5, 220). The fact that he has had weight and immaturity issues that caused him to get released from two receiver-needy teams like Detroit and Oakland speaks volumes about his character. With the Bucs openly stating that the environment in Tampa Bay’s locker room is the best it has ever been, bringing in a player with questionable character like Williams might rock the boat.

• Realizing that if Tampa Bay wins the NFC South and earns a playoff berth that head coach Jon Gruden likely gets a contract extension after 2007, the St. Petersburg Times came out on Sunday with lips puckered to Gruden’s behind, stating in two columns that Gruden has done enough to earn a contract extension if the Bucs get to the playoffs, which Pewter Report stated weeks ago. It’s a smart, calculated move by a newspaper that has a reputation for beating up Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen on a regular basis. Let’s not forget that the St. Pete Times published a scathing, one-sided hit piece titled, Feeling The Fire before the start of the season just three months ago. Expect similar concessions from the Tampa Tribune in the coming weeks, which will come off even phonier after Pewter Report and the Times have already reported that Gruden and Allen should get contract extensions if they produce a playoff team in 2007.

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WATCH Pewter Report's Scott Reynolds and Jim Flynn each Sunday night at 11:30 p.m. on Sports Zone with Al Keck and Tom Korun on ABC Action News in Tampa Bay for Bucs game highlights and the latest Bucs news. And for the best local coverage of Tampa Bay sports and Tampa Bay news, check out ABCActionNews.com.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: sr@pewterreport.com
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