LATEST UPDATE FROM THE McCARDELL CAMP received this statement on Thursday night from Steve Caric, who helps represent Bucs WR Keenan McCardell and works with Gary Uberstine at Premier Sports Management:

"Coach Gruden made some remarks earlier this week that were personally critical of Keenan McCardell. Bruce Allen followed those up yesterday with statements that were misleading half-truths, innuendos and personal snipes. We will continue to attempt to take the high road, and will not get lulled into making personal attacks at the expense of ignoring the real issue at hand."

"Gary Uberstine continues to maintain that the focus should remain on making the best business decision for both parties, rather than conducting a contest of personal egos. As he stated from the outset of this holdout, it is by definition a situation in which both sides will lose, and those losses are continuing with each passing day. Despite the Buc's feeling that this situation will resolve itself with the mere passage of time, the reality is that only the date will change with time."

Caric was apparently referring to recent quotes in the local papers. The Bucs' supposed interest in former Oakland wide receiver Tim Brown may have prompted another statement from McCardell's camp. McCardell, who is holding out for a pay raise, has missed the first six days of training camp and is subject to a $5,000 fine per day from the Buccaneers.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers welcomed the return of under tackle Anthony McFarland to practice on Thursday, just one day after being carted off the field after rolling his ankle. McFarland practiced with the second team while Ellis Wyms ran with the first unit.

"Anthony McFarland returned to practice; he was okay," said Bucs head coach Jon Gruden.

Gruden also commented on the team's other injured players, including cornerback Ronyell Whitaker, who apparently was hospitalized with dehydration symptoms.

"Derrick Deese is improving. He's still day-to-day," Gruden said. "[Sean] Mahan returned to practice in a limited fashion. Hopefully we can get a little more out of him this afternoon. Ronyell Whitaker was held today with dehydration. He'll probably be out a couple days. Danny Farmer still is nursing a hamstring (as is) Charles Lee."

The only significant injury in Thursday's practice was to nose tackle DeVone Claybrooks, who was carted off the field in the morning session with a lower back strain.

With the Buccaneers wide receiving corps beset with so many injuries, coupled with the hold out of disgruntled flanker Keenan McCardell, Tampa Bay may be expressing interest in former Oakland receiver Tim Brown. Gruden briefly discussed any interest in Brown with the media after practice.

"I don't want to speculate," Gruden said. "I'll let Bruce Allen do all that. I have enough responsibilities right now. But he's a great player. He's had a great career and he's a good man."

When asked if he would like to be reunited with Brown, who verbally bashed Gruden after the head coach was traded to Tampa Bay in 2002, Gruden danced around the question.

"I don't know," Gruden said. "I'd have to sit down and think about things before I can even comment. Again, I don't want to fuel any speculation. He's had a long run, a long, great run with the Raiders and I certainly wish him well."

Gruden has prominently featured new wide receiver Joey Galloway in his version of the West Coast offense. Gruden has been so happy to have a speedy playmaker like Galloway to work with he wishes he could clone him, especially with Jurevicius' back surgery and McCardell's holdout undercutting the team's depth at wide receiver.

"I wish we had three Galloways," Gruden said. "That's the problem – there's only one of him. But we're trying to utilize all the things he's done extremely well and we're trying to work on a few new clubs for him to hit. And he's hitting those shots right now pretty good. He's got a wide inventory of routes that he can run, and he's a real powerful guy. He's not the biggest, tallest specimen, but he's a powerful man. He's very strong and he's been known to make big plays after the catch, so there are a lot of qualities that we're excited about.

"I've seen him at close range when he was with Seattle. He's inflicted a lot of wounds upon me. And I remember playing Dallas last year. We targeted him, we knew exactly how to handle him and we were going to do the best we could in terms of trying to negate some of the things he wanted to do, and, no I'm not surprised at all. I wish he had a twin brother."

After a great start to their first NFL training camp, some of Tampa Bay's rookies, notably wide receivers Michael Clayton and Mark Jones, safety Will Allen, linebacker Marquis Cooper and cornerback Lenny Williams, have begun to hit the proverbial wall. In other words, after five straight days of two-a-days in an NFL camp, inconsistent play is setting in.

"We're seeing spurts here and there of good and not so good," Gruden said. "Again, it's a tough grind for these guys. It's a mental and physical grind. The competition at this level is so much different. There are no easy downs. Every down you're lining up against a pro football player. You're not lining up against little Jonny Gruden from Dayton. You're lining up against really good football players who are doing this for a living, trying to make a team. We're seeing some signs that we like, some signs that show us how far we have to go."

While a lot is expected of this rookie class, especially Clayton, the team's first-round draft pick, Gruden doesn't think he's pushing them too hard mentally.

"No, I think you have to do that, because when the game starts LaVar Arrington doesn't care who you are," Gruden said. "He's not going to discriminate who he's smacking in the hole, whether you're a rookie or a six-year veteran. You've got to find out who has the ability to play in games on Sunday. When they've got to go in, they've got to perform to a high level. You've got to push them. Some of these guys, it's brand new. Some of these guys have been in big-time college programs. But you've got to push them and I think they'd attest to that. It's a lot different style of football."

While Gruden has heaped a pile of praise on Clayton during training camp, he knows that even he is not immune to mental fatigue, which manifests itself in a dropped pass or route that was run incorrectly.

"He's right in there," Gruden said of Clayton. "Again, he's operating against Brian Kelly and Ronde Barber and Mario Edwards, and when you do spring yourself against one of them you have Dwight Smith and [Jermaine] Phillips in there. Those guys are unforgiving, man. They can run like hell. [Clayton is] battling frustration, maybe, for the first time in his career. A lot of these young guys realize that. It's something Chris Simms went through. He had a great career at Texas, led the Big 12 in passing three years in a row, and all of a sudden we're not in Kansas anymore. This is a little bit different. There are going to be some growing pains. Certainly we're going to experience them, but we've got to fight through it."

Tampa Bay's defense did a very good job of bottling up the Bucs offense in the morning's padded practice. The offense worked on red zone drills starting at the defense's 10- and 5-yard lines.

"They're really good there," Gruden said. "I think they've been in the top of the league the last six or seven years against the forward pass. When you're throwing the ball and they know it's a pass, they're going to be wicked. They're going to be very, very good. It's hard to get a play on them two days in a row. You might get them one day, but you'd better change the formation, you'd better come up with something else the next day. Shaquille O'Neal was in there today. I thought there were balls being batted back at me. I swear Manute Bol was playing defense today. They were awesome down there. I don't want to give them a big head, either, because we expect a lot more from our defense. That goes for turnovers as well.

"I was very pleased, particularly with the defensive practice today. Fast. Very difficult to get anything done offensively."

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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 Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for 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:
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