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Here are some things that caught my attention this week:
FAB 1. Is Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden two-faced?
Last week, former Bucs defensive tackle and current Oakland Raider Warren Sapp was asked to compare and contrast new Oakland coach Lane Kiffin, Monte’s son, with Gruden, a former Raiders coach whom he played under in Tampa Bay. Sapp’s comments, which were reported in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat newspaper in California and also picked up by NFL Network, basically echoed charges levied by other former Bucs Keenan McCardell, Simeon Rice and Keyshawn Johnson. All four have either stated or implied that Gruden is two-faced, fake and phony.
Here is what was reported in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat last week:
Sapp seems to admire Gruden as a coach, but harbors no delusions about his people skills.
"Gruden had a pretty good way of succeeding, but then you got to listen to him after two years and it became fake," he said.
"That doesn't always wash with guys. Because some guys take your message and put it literally. Gruden will tell you he loves you to your face and walk behind the door and say you're a piece of —- to somebody else."
It should be noted that Sapp, McCardell and Rice all became ex-Buccaneers over money and that Johnson and Gruden clashed egos from the first day Gruden stepped into One Buccaneer Place because he wasn’t Bill Parcells. But even if some former players were bitter, saying that Gruden is “fake” and talking about players behind their back are some pretty heavy charges.
Over the last couple of days I have spoken with several Buccaneers veterans off the record to gauge their reaction. It would be quite pointless to talk to veteran Kevin Carter or rookies Arron Sears or Sabby Piscitelli about this matter because their exposure to Gruden has been limited to just a few months. Almost all of the players I spoke with had either seen or heard about Sapp’s quotes. Naturally, no one wanted to go on the record, which is understandable because of the fear of retribution. Here’s what I found out.
All of the players I spoke with indicated that most of the team supports Gruden and are ready to go to war with him in 2007. There are a few players who simply don’t like Gruden but put up with him because he’s the boss. All of the players I interviewed said that Rice was one of those guys who didn’t like Gruden and they felt that the biggest reason why he is not in Tampa Bay was because of that, as opposed to his shoulder injury or money.
Sapp’s comments also hit home because some players recall Gruden throwing wide receiver Tim Brown under the bus in Bucs offensive meetings when talking about certain coaching points on film. Then in 2004, much to their surprise, Gruden signed Brown, a player he allegedly bad-mouthed in the meeting room prior to his arrival, when Tampa Bay desperately needed receivers.
Most of the players I spoke with acknowledged that Gruden tells them what they want to hear rather than the way it is.
“It’s all in how guys take what Gruden says,” said one Buccaneer. “Some guys, like me, look at what he says as a way to try to fire you up, even if it isn’t necessarily true. Other players take what he says to heart and then when that guy doesn’t get a certain amount of opportunities they thought they were going to have, they feel like Gruden stabbed them in the back. Guys take things a certain way and every guy is different.”
That was Keyshawn Johnson’s biggest complaint about Gruden, and that’s why some of the players I spoke with feel that the head coach can be fake. Other players acknowledged Gruden’s behavior as two-faced by telling them what they wanted to hear, but said that he may have just been trying to motivate them with that approach.
The only player I spoke with who would go on the record is someone who was already cut by the Buccaneers – defensive tackle Ellis Wyms. Throughout the years, Wyms has been one of my go-to guys and we’ve developed a pretty good working relationship. I have found Wyms to be honest and full of candor, always saying what was on his mind in a calm, thoughtful way. Our conversation on Tuesday was no different as he was flying back to Tampa from Seattle, where he practiced on Monday as a member of the Seahawks.
Wyms heard Sapp’s comments and had this reaction: “I wouldn’t go so far as to call Coach [Gruden] two-faced. I’ll just say that he’s a guy sometimes that is not a really great people person. He doesn’t really know how to address certain kinds of people and get his point across. He’s just not good at relating to certain types of players sometimes. As a head coach, that’s something that you’ve got to be able to do to get your point across and to get guys to really want to follow you and believe in what you are doing. I think with a lot of people in the organization, there are certain people that Jon can let his guard down with. He gives you cliché talk a lot of times. He tells you what you want to hear instead of just telling you the truth about what is really going on or what is really happening. I think he’s young and he’s just got to learn to deal with players better.”
Wyms’ statement was similar to what I heard from other Bucs veterans – he tells players what they want to hear, mainly as a misguided way of trying to motivate them. I could give you some specifics
All the players I spoke with had a healthy respect for Gruden as a coach, regardless of their personal feelings for the guy. They all admitted that they appreciated Gruden’s tireless work ethic and the way he prepares players for Sunday’s games. The players said that the fact that Gruden is the first one at One Buccaneer Place and the last one to leave doesn’t go unnoticed, and that they all genuinely believe that he wants them to do well – it’s just how he goes about it that concerns them.
Like Wyms, some players echoed the fact that the 44-year old Gruden is still a young coach, and some rattled off the names of Bill Bellichick (55), Tom Coughlin (61) and Bill Parcells (66) as coaches who have 10 or 20 years worth of coaching experience on Gruden. It’s noteworthy that those three coaches were mentioned because each has been known for their abrasive personalities and lack of people skills at times.
All three of those coaches are also known for winning, though. So is Gruden.
I got the sense in talking to the players that they wish he would be more “real” and they know that he has difficulty dealing with some players. It’s something Gruden has to clearly work on. He has acknowledged that he has a difficult way of saying goodbye to players because of the emotional circumstances involved.
Brown expressed some initial bitterness over the fact that when Gruden was traded to Tampa Bay that he didn’t call any of the Raiders players to say goodbye – he just left. When Rice was released on the first day of training camp this year, one of his beefs with Gruden was the fact that he never came by to shake his hand.
But sometimes loving your head coach and respecting him as a person simply isn’t enough. Only once did the ever-popular Tony Dungy coax 11 wins out of the Buccaneers, and when his job was on the line in Philadelphia in 2001, his players reacted by getting defeated 31-3.
Despite his personal flaws, Gruden’s two winning seasons in Tampa Bay have produced 11 wins in 2005 and 15 wins in 2002, including the team’s only Super Bowl title. That can’t be understated.
If he can tweak his personality, become more open as a coach and stop telling his players what they want to hear, chances are Gruden would have the full support of the locker room. And that might enable him to take this Buccaneers team to new heights.
I’ve always stated that when things are going well during Tampa Bay’s football season, Gruden is the guy you want as the head coach. He can cajole and inspire his players to greatness. He can take a team that should have eight or nine wins, like the 2005 squad, and push it to 11.
But when a season starts to head south, Gruden’s ability to turn it around and rally is often interrupted by the fact that not everyone believes in him enough to join the cause and get the season back on track. That’s why getting off to a hot start is important, especially this year where every Buccaneer in the locker room knows that Gruden has just two years left on his contract and is on the hot seat.
I get the sense that if the Bucs win early, the players will continue to buy in and overlook any perceived character deficiencies. If the Bucs start off 0-4 again, as they did in 2004 and ’06, chances are Gruden will lose the locker room.
FAB 2. It must sting One Buccaneer Place a bit to see former defensive tackle Ellis Wyms head to Seattle a week before Tampa Bay has to play the Seahawks. The Bucs may have to adjust their offensive and defensive audible package because of Wyms’ intimate knowledge of their offensive and defensive systems.
Not only can Wyms spill the beans about what Tampa Bay has been planning to do defensively against Seattle as he has been in meetings and on the practice field during the OTAs, training camp and the preseason, but Wyms can also give the Seahawks tips on the tendencies of some of the Buccaneers offensive linemen, too.
Surprisingly, Wyms hasn’t been interrogated yet by the Seahawks coaches, but it is still early in the week.
“I’m surprised they haven’t asked me a whole lot,” Wyms said. “I kind of thought they would. They have a game plan they’ve been preparing for a while now and I guess they don’t want to get off track. They beat the Bucs a couple of times over the past few years, so I think they don’t need my help that way. So far they haven’t [asked me]. But if they do, I’ll give them what I can.”
Any loyal teammate would, and Wyms’ loyalties lie with Seattle now. Wyms got the sense that he would be released and harbors no ill will towards a Buccaneers organization that drafted him as a sixth-rounder out of Mississippi State in 2001. He recalled how he was notified of his release when the team’s pro personnel director, Mark Dominik (also known as “The Turk”) called his agent, Brian Levy.
“I was in the movies and my agent texted me once I got released,” Wyms said. “After I got through with the movie I called Mark Dominik and he said that he needed to see me and sign some paperwork. I kind of expected it. I knew what my salary was this year ($3.9 million). They had some good young players they wanted to take a look at. They thought that they could replace me. It’s part of the business and I’m not really bitter about it. I thank the Buccaneers for the time they gave me. We won a championship there, so they will always be near and dear to my heart. But sometimes you have to move on. It’s just part of the NFL.”
Wyms said he is not looking to extract any revenge against the Buccaneers on Sunday when he replaces defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs in the lineup. Tubbs was lost for the season last Thursday when he tore his ACL in Seattle’s preseason finale`.
“I’m looking foward to it brecause it will be my first game as a Seahawk,” Wyms said. “Obviously, I played against those [Seattle] guys a couple times and I have some friends up there. I’m looking forward to getting back on the field and getting a win [against Tampa Bay].”
I asked Wyms what he thought went wrong with the Buccaneers over the last couple of seasons in which the team has only mustered one winning record out of the last four years.
“I think one of the main problems that has been there has been keeping a consistent roster,” Wyms said. “There has always been roster turnover every year. It’s always a new quarterback or new receivers or a new offensive lineman or new defensive lineman. We had a pretty good group of core guys there with Warren [Sapp], Simeon [Rice], myself, Booger [McFarland] and Greg Spires. We had a pretty good group of core guys there. If they would have kept us together, that defense would have stayed strong for a long time. But at the first sign of trouble, the first thing they want to do is change personnel. Sometimes you’ve got to stick with the guys that you’ve got. Warren Sapp is still having a hell of a career. I think Simeon will continue to have a hell of a career. Dexter Jackson and Dwight Smith – there are so many good athletes that we let get out the door. Thomas Jones is another one. The list goes on and on about guys that we’ve let go who are still contributing elsewhere. I think the main problem is so much roster turnover and not enough consistency.”
Of course, Wyms either forgets or overlooks that keeping 21 out of 22 starters together after the 2005 team produced an 11-5 record netted a 4-12 mark last year. When asked if he felt that head coach Jon Gruden and the front office are too impatient with players and the team’s roster, Wyms said yes.
“I think so,” Wyms said. “You can’t be impatient. You won a Super Bowl with a lot of those guys, so obviously there are some guys there that can play. You can’t continue to get rid of good players and then not bring in players equal to or as good as those players and think you are going to continue to win. It’s a players league. I know you have to have good coaching and good play-calling, but it’s a players league and you have to have good players to win. Sometimes I think they put more faith in the system than they did the players and I think that is where they got off track.”
Wyms has some valid points, but ignores the fact that most of the players he spoke about, including Sapp, Dexter Jackson and Dwight Smith left the Buccaneers because the team was in the midst of being in salary cap strapped. Tampa Bay has also shown remarkable patience in some players who have been underachievers in recent years, such as wide receiver Michael Clayton, strong safety Jermaine Phillips, former offensive tackle Kenyatta Walker, and most recently, quarterback Chris Simms.
Wyms, who became Tampa Bay’s starting under tackle when McFarland was traded last October, said the reason he was released was because he and new defensive line coach, Larry Coyer, never hit it off.
“I think we got off to a rocky start, but I don’t think he thought I could be the guy in this defense,” said Wyms, who amassed 144 tackles and 16.5 sacks over six years in Tampa Bay, including the postseason. “We got off to a rocky start. He knows what he likes in a player. Obviously, I don’t think I was what he liked as a player.”
Despite being released, Wyms could find no fault in Coyer, whom he indicated was a major upgrade over Jethro Franklin, who was fired after one year on the job as Tampa Bay’s defensive line coach in 2006.
“I think he’ll be fine,” Wyms said of Coyer. “He has a group of guys that want to ball and want to play for him. He’s kind of difficult to feel sometimes, but I think they’ll do fine. I think that is one of the main reasons that I’m not there is that he didn’t like me.”
Wyms offered up his honest assessment of the Buccaneers’ upcoming season, and even hinted that Tampa Bay may be a playoff-caliber team in 2007.
“I think they can possibly do well,” Wyms said. “They’ve got a playmaker back there at quarterback and Cadillac Williams is a great back. The offensive line has gotten a lot better. I think the offensive tackle play has to get better, but the guard play, with Davin [Joseph] and whether it is A.D. (Anthony Davis) or Arron Sears, is strong inside. The defense … it’s a different cast of guys. I don’t know how much they have upgraded the pass rush, but we’ll see on Sunday. I guess they think they upgraded the pass rush. We’ll see on Sunday. Getting Raheem Morris back coaching the defensive backs was huge. I don’t know how much Jeremiah Trotter is going to help right away, but I think that was an upgrade. I think they have an opportunity to be a good team. They need some things to kind of fall into the right place and they have to get off to a good start.
“I think they have an opportunity to be a good team, but I don’t think it will start on Sunday. I think we’ll beat them on Sunday. But they have a lot of veterans in that locker room that will show up and fight every Sunday. They have some good young talent and they have some guys who have been in the system for a while and know what they are doing. I think they have an opportunity to have a winning record this year, but they are going to have to have a lot of people play well, and like any team in the league, they can’t have a lot of injuries like they did last year. If they're still healthy and get on the right track, I think they can have a great season.”
And that’s coming from the mouth of the enemy.
FAB 3. Bucs head coach Jon Gruden may have tipped his hand about which quarterback will be Jeff Garcia’s backup when he spoke with Pewter Report on Monday. Both Luke McCown, who is listed as the backup on the Buccaneers depth chart and has taken the number two reps in practice during the majority of training camp and the preseason, and Bruce Gradkowski, who started 11 games as a rookie last year, impressed Gruden during the preseason.
McCown, who missed last year’s preseason while recovering from a torn ACL, completed 36-of-50 passes (72 percent) for 394 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. While he also ran for 63 yards on eight carries (7.9 avg.), McCown did get sacked eight times, the most of any Buccaneers quarterback during the preseason.
“We looked at that,” Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said. “Two of sacks were bad snaps, so it’s not really eight, it’s six. He was blindsided at Miami where Donald Penn missed a routine pick up. There have been a couple of sacks really that were 1-yard losses where he was scrambling, trying to keep it alive. That’s just part of football. But he did have three or four of what I call ‘bone-headed plays.’ Those are plays that you have to eliminate because you have absolutely no plays to call when it is second-and-19 or third-and-14. The percentages in the league tell you that.
“He has done a lot of great things for a guy that has been inactive for this long. He’s been really impressive. We’re going to continue to emphasize the things he did poorly, even though he hates us for it. Understand that the guy does have some really good talent, but he forgot to send a guy in motion in Jacksonville. He missed an opportunity to throw the ball away. The ball slipped out of hands in the two-minute drill (and was intercepted). He fumbled the ball on the 1-yard line going in. Those are plays now that make you the third-team quarterback.”
While Gruden wouldn’t come out and declare that McCown will be the third-string quarterback, the fact that he mentioned the term “third-team quarterback” is quite telling. I get the sense that Gruden is enamored with McCown’s poise, physical attributes and upside. The fact that he hasn’t screwed up in a real game yet for Gruden also gives him an advantage.
But McCown’s gaffes – outlined by Gruden – likely scare the head coach, who all but ruled out the notion that fourth-string quarterback Chris Simms, who only got one offensive series in four preseason games and missed the Houston contest last week with a bad hip, will be Garcia’s backup in 2007.
“Chris Simms has to learn from the turnovers he’s endured in his last four starts [dating back to the 2005 playoff loss to Washington],” Gruden said. “He’s had nine or 10 interceptions. You’re not going to play if you turn the ball over. That I do know. As long as I am here, you are not going to play if you turn the ball over.”
The fact that Gradkowski completed 36-of-58 passes (62.1 percent) for 408 yards with four touchdowns and played turnover-free football during the preseason – going without an interception (his lone pick was a jump ball situation against Houston that was overturned by instant replay) and without being sacked – caught Gruden’s eye.
“I think it says a lot,” Gruden said. “Everyone talks about him missing some open throws down the field. Until he starts hitting those, he’s going to continue to be a backup quarterback. When you get guys open in the NFL, especially deep, you have got to make those throws. That’s an area he has to get better at. But managing the game, managing the football team, keeping us in operable situations – that keeps us all in the game. No sacks, no picks and the fact that he played pretty damn good football when we were in the clutch – it says a lot about his development I think.”
Unless Gruden announces who the number two quarterback will be during the week, we will all find out on Sunday when Tampa Bay has to designate one of its four signal callers as the third-string, emergency quarterback. The guess here is that Gradkowski will be the backup due to his error-free preseason and his recent starting experience, and that McCown, who has just four NFL starts in his career – all of which came in 2004 with Cleveland – will serve as the number three signal caller. We’ll see on Sunday.
FAB 4. There have been some whispers that rookie free safety Tanard Jackson may crack the starting lineup over Will Allen on Sunday in Tampa Bay’s 2007 season opener against Seattle. While veteran Jermaine Phillips is slated to start at strong safety versus the Seahawks, rookie Sabby Piscitelli, the team’s second second-round pick this year, will likely see plenty of action and may wind up being a starter before too long.
Piscitelli had his best preseason showing in the exhibition season finale` against Houston on Thursday night in which he posted a couple of tackles and recorded his first interception. Buccaneers coaches believe that will be the first of many in Piscitelli’s NFL career.
The 6-foot-3, 224-pound Piscitelli recorded 15 interceptions at Oregon State as a three-year starter. Phillips, the man he is trying to unseat, has recorded only four picks in his five seasons with the Buccaneers.
“Interceptions are plays that change games,” Piscitelli said. “Our coaches did a great job of getting us prepared that week for that coverage and that particular play. Houston is a big boot-action team. Coach Raheem [Morris] did a great job of telling us where to line up and what to look for. I saw the ball thrown and just reacted. I just made sure that ball was mine once it was in the air.”
Piscitelli had a chance to record his first interception a couple of weeks ago at Jacksonville when he went up for a deep ball, tipping it at its highest point, but failing to come down with the ball as he fell to the ground. Piscitelli can’t beat himself up too bad over the dropped pick, though. The reality is that at 6-foot-3, he is the only Bucs defensive back who could have even touched the errant, overthrown pass.
“That was actually a real big missed opportunity for me,” Piscitelli said. “I think I really should have had that ball. Being a bigger, taller, faster safety, I need to capitalize on those types of opportunities. It would have been nice to have two picks in the preseason.”
Piscitelli got off to a slow start during the preseason because he was held out of the first game against New England as a precautionary measure due to a sore hamstring. Had he got a chance to play in that game, the Punta Gorda, Fla. native feels he would be further along in his development.
“I definitely wish I could have played in that first preseason game,” Piscitelli said. “I really think it set me back. But I think Tampa Bay did the right thing, and Todd Toriscelli did a good job of making sure I didn’t re-aggravate my hamstring – right now it feels great. I just feel like I got off to a real slow start this preseason. In Jacksonville, I only got in for 18 plays, so that wasn’t even like a real game to me. In Miami, I only played about 25 plays and it was kind of a slow game. This last game was really the first game where I felt really comfortable. So yes, I feel like missing that New England game set me back a bit. But once I get my opportunity this season, I think I’ll show why I should be playing a lot at the safety position. Hopefully, I’ll be ready.”
One of Piscitelli’s preseason highlights came on a play he didn’t make. At Miami, Dolphins quarterback Cleo Lemon scrambled for a big gain on third down and slid after picking up the first down right by the Miami sidelines. It’s a good thing because Piscitelli was barreling down on him and had gone airborne, hoping for a big hit. Instead, the rookie safety went flying over Lemon out of bounds.
“I was laughing at that because on film you see me just fly right over the top of him,” Piscitelli said. “He was lucky. I tried to get a good little hit on him, but he ducked. But if you get those guys to start sliding, sometimes they stop two or three yards before the first down. It’s good to get that hesitation in them.”
There aren’t many safeties that have Piscitelli’s size in the NFL, and he believes that his size-speed ratio is what gives him an advantage in the secondary.
“The thing that I’ve emphasized in my career is trying to get the size, strength and speed together,” Piscitelli said. “I think I’ve done a pretty good job of that. I think my size is one of my pluses to be honest with you. I don’t see many negatives with my size. My size gives me a lot of advantages because I am fast enough to run with a lot of receivers. I’m a sub 4.4 guy. I run in the high 4.3’s. I’m quick enough in coverage, but I’m big enough to play in the box and make big hits on running backs. That’s always a good thing for a safety.”
Piscitelli, who is one of the best athletes on Tampa Bay’s roster, grew two inches in college thanks to a growth spurt and added 30 pounds of muscle during his Oregon State days.
“I’ve really made myself into who I am,” Piscitelli said. “I went into college about 6-foot-1, 193 pounds and I worked out really hard. Now I’m about 224 pounds. I lived in the weight room for four years, but I worked on my speed, too. That’s really made me develop into the player I am today. I was about 217 and still running a 4.33. The funny thing is that they see a guy who is white and big and they don’t think I’m that fast. I don’t think I’ve run anything slower than a high 4.4. I’m really a high 4.3-low 4.4 guy, and quickness isn’t a problem, either. I just have to keep on that. Sometimes I’ll drop down to 220 if I feel a little heavy on my feet. I think my size is an advantage.”
When asked if there were any negatives about his size, Piscitelli didn’t think so.
“As for my negatives, sometimes I am a bit too tall to take on small running backs, but that’s it,” Piscitelli said. “It’s hard for me to get my pad level down sometimes. That’s why I like taking on bigger running backs.”
It’s clear that the Bucs are high on their second-round safety, who led the team in interceptions during training camp. And it’s only a matter of time until Piscitelli gets his chance to start for Tampa Bay. He is preparing himself to receive a decent amount of playing time in Seattle on Sunday, even though he has no control over whether he starts or not.
“The biggest thing for me is just getting prepared by getting into the playbook and getting in the film room,” Piscitelli said. “I’m not thinking about anything else this week. I just want to be prepared when they call my number on defense or on special teams. When I get there I just want to make the most of my opportunity.”
FAB 5. Here are some things that will hold you over until the next SR’s Fab Five:
• So why is Tampa Bay quarterback Chris Simms still a Buccaneer? That remains a bit of a mystery at One Buccaneer Place, and I can’t put my finger on it. I’m not buying the fact that the Glazers insisted that general manager Bruce Allen and head coach Jon Gruden keep Simms. That’s not their style and not the way they operate. From what I have gathered, the decision to keep Simms was Allen’s because he sees some value in keeping the Bucs’ former starting quarterback, whether it is for insurance purposes or as possible trade bait. But one thing appears clear in talking to Gruden, he wasn’t behind the decision to keep Simms. This development is somewhat significant because it blows a whole in the theory that Allen is Gruden’s puppet, which some in the media created to belittle or demean Tampa Bay’s general manager. To think that way is either ignorant or driven by an agenda. If you have ever met Allen, he is clearly his own man, and is not anyone’s puppet. And it hasn’t become any clearer than now that he is calling the shots in terms of Tampa Bay’s player acquisition. If you think that Gruden is the one in charge of player acquisition in Tampa Bay and that Allen is his “yes man,” think again. Gruden wanted center Al Johnson in free agency and Allen told him “no.” Gruden would have loved the chance to draft wide receiver Calvin Johnson instead of defensive end Gaines Adams and Allen told him “no” to any possible trades. The decision to keep Simms is yet another instance in which Allen and Gruden don’t appear to be in lockstep. But don’t think this is the first sign of a rift. This is actually quite healthy because at the end of the day, Gruden respects Allen even though he may disagree with him. Gruden didn’t have the same level of respect for former general manager Rich McKay because he didn’t watch nearly as much film as Allen watches, and didn’t put in the hours that Allen and Gruden do. I can't agree with Allen's decision on this one. Maybe he wants to keep Simms out of Atlanta (or at least make McKay give something up to get him), but I can't see how Simms will help the Bucs this year and he's not one of the best 53 players on the team right now because of his poor mechanics.
• Don’t get too excited about the signing of Philadelphia middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter. He will not start in place of Barrett Ruud, and the signing of Trotter is not an indication that Ruud can’t play for defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. The reason why Trotter was signed was more about Ryan Nece’s inability to play middle linebacker than any indictment of Ruud. Trotter, who has typically played over 260 pounds during his career, but is now in the 250-pound range, is not an ideal fit for the Tampa 2 defense, which often requires its linebackers to drop in coverage. This is basically a one-year experiment to see if someone with a Pro Bowl pedigree like Trotter, who has never played in a Cover 2 defense before, can learn the defense and thrive in it. Working against Trotter is the fact that he is 30 years old, has some ailing knees and isn’t adept at dropping into coverage. The Bucs will likely ask Trotter to drop some more weight in an effort to improve his speed and quickness, and if he sees the field at some point in 2007, the Bucs may be limited to playing Cover 3 instead of Cover 2, which requires the middle linebacker to cover the deep middle of the field.
• The Buccaneers stayed in touch with Tom Condon, the agent for defensive end Simeon Rice, since Rice’s release on the first day of training camp. However, the Bucs never really put themselves in position to re-sign Rice. It was not a secret that Rice and head coach Jon Gruden didn’t get along, and the front office wasn’t all warm and fuzzy over Rice, either. While players like linebackers Derrick Brooks and Shelton Quarles, center John Wade and running back Michael Pittman each took pay cuts and restructured their contracts on several occasions to help the team manage its salary cap woes, Rice never forked over one penny to help his team or his teammates. The Bucs were actually talking about a one-year contract extension with Rice during the summer with the stipulation that he reduce his base salary for the 2007 season, but once again, Rice didn’t want to give up one cent, despite missing half of the 2006 campaign with an injury. Rice talks about how he was disrespected in Tampa Bay and was never given his due. How exactly does being the highest-paid Buccaneer and the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL from 2003-06 not factor into being disrespected?
• The Bucs will miss Torrie Cox more than you think. Cox, who was a Pro Bowl alternate on special teams, had a phenomenal preseason and recorded five tackles covering kicks in August. He is out the first four games of the 2007 season due to an NFL suspension and his inability to play could really impact Tampa Bay’s special teams. Not only is he the team’s best tackler on punt and kick coverage, he may also be the Bucs’ best kickoff return man, as well.
• One last note – be sure to stop by the Sports Fan-Attic store at Westshore Mall and meet Bucs strong safety Sabby Piscitelli next Saturday, September 15 from 1:00-3:00 p.m. Piscitelli is doing a charity autograph signing and for just $15 you can get up to two autographs. That's the day before the Bucs' home opener against the Saints, so it's a great day to stock up on some new Bucs gear, too. If you want to avoid waiting in line on the day of the signing, you can stop by any Tampa Bay area Sports Fan-Attic store and purchase a $15 autograph ticket in advance.
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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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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