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Free agent Dunn ponders Dungy, backfield issues

By JOHN C. COTEY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 13, 2002

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PHILADELPHIA -- If Tony Dungy is shown the door after a disappointing conclusion to a disappointing season, will Warrick Dunn follow?

Possibly. Dunn wasn't saying after Sunday's loss to Philadelphia, but made it clear that any decision involving Dungy would influence his.

Dunn also hinted that the backfield situation, in which he and Mike Alstott have shared feature back duties at various points this season, also would play a role.

Asked if there were room for two feature backs in one backfield, Dunn said, "I don't know."

The fifth-year running back is an unrestricted free agent, so these are questions he must answer before deciding if he wants to come back, that is, if the Bucs want him back.

"It's a wait-and-see thing," Dunn said. "It's been a long year, frustrating. But things happen for a reason and we'll see what happens. I have a long time before free agency.

"A lot depends on what happens to Coach Dungy, who they bring in, if he leaves. There are a lot of things I have to think about."

Dunn had his least productive season, finishing with 476 yards. He set a career-high with 68 catches, and added a team-high eight Sunday, a Bucs single-game postseason record.

Most of the season, he was slowed by a foot injury he said never healed.

"Now I actually get a chance to not run and let it heal," Dunn said. "But I couldn't take that break during the season."

NO QUIT: While the heart of the Bucs was questioned by Dunn, who suggested that some players may have slacked off once the team fell behind, and by Keyshawn Johnson, who ripped some of his teammates, they weren't talking about defensive end Simeon Rice.

Rice had seven tackles and two sacks and made a number of key plays on potential big plays.

He sacked Donovan McNabb on a third down, and twice made shoestring tackles, on runs by Duce Staley and Correll Buckhalter, one for a loss.

ZERO: Defensive tackle Warren Sapp had zero solo tackles, but assisted on five.

THIRD DOWN FOLLIES: Before Johnson's 47-yard catch near the end of the first half, and the Bucs had failed to convert on their previous five third downs, throwing two incompletions and going minus-7, minus-5 and minus-3 on other plays.

FIRST-DOWN JOLLIES: Each of Johnson's three catches went for first downs.

PICK, PICK, PICK: Brad Johnson's four interceptions tied the team playoff record set by Doug Williams in a loss to Dallas in 1982. But to show just how poor the Bucs passing game has been in the postseason, his 22 completions broke the previous record of 17 (set by Shaun King in last year's playoff debacle) and his 202 yards broke Trent Dilfer's 1998 record of 200 set against Philadelphia.

ONE MORE GAME: It should come as little solace to Alstott, Ronde Barber, Derrick Brooks and Sapp, but Sunday all four were named NFC starters for the Pro Bowl.

Keyshawn Johnson and John Lynch are reserves.

WRONG TIME, WHITE TIME: For the second straight year, Stephen White started in Philadelphia at defensive end for an injured Marcus Jones.

Last season, Jones started all 16 games for the Bucs but missed the 21-3 wild-card loss with a sprained left foot. This year, he started the first 15 games but missed the regular-season finale with a sprained right shoulder.

So in the past two seasons, Jones has started all but three games -- all against the Eagles.

White played well in his stead, sacking McNabb once and getting three tackles.

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