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Wait starts to wear on Bucs

Players and coaches admit frustration about the lengthening search for a coach.

By ROGER MILLS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 9, 2002

TAMPA -- With the 11th-hour decision by team vice presidents Joel, Bryan and Ed Glazer to block a deal to name Marvin Lewis the new Bucs coach, the chaos has left players and coaches wondering about ownership's credibility.

"Man, this is a circus and I don't want to be in the act," linebacker Derrick Brooks said Friday after the Glazers told general manager Rich McKay he could not offer the job to the Ravens defensive coordinator, even though Bucs officials had been helping Lewis assemble an offensive coaching staff for several days.

"Other people around the league have described this situation as a joke. You have to laugh because you don't want to cry. ... I don't know what to think. Whatever they do, I hope it's the best thing. But that's what scares me."

Brooks said he is concerned by recent events, in which the Bucs have tried and failed to land coaching candidates Bill Parcells, Jon Gruden and now Lewis, and acknowledged several teammates have expressed similar concerns.

"I have teammates calling me and asking if we can trust these owners," said the five-time Pro Bowl selection, who has played his seven-year career with the Bucs. "Our credibility is being hurt. I don't know if (the Glazers) know that.

"You want to go to work for people. We've got to go to work for somebody. It may not be the most popular choice, but we still have to go to work. Now, there are questions from the top to the bottom. Right now, everybody's not on the same page. I read where Rich (McKay) said it was not a good working environment. Well, here's my general manager saying it's not a good working environment. That scares me."

Even as far as Hawaii, where four Bucs are practicing for today's Pro Bowl, there was disbelief.

"I've been trying to stay away from it, but based on what I've seen, it's frustrating," cornerback Ronde Barber said. "People out here are asking what's going on with you guys and we don't have any answers. You couldn't have written a worse script than what has been written here.

"It already is a joke."

Added defensive tackle Warren Sapp, an outspoken player who was rumored to be part of a trade with the Raiders for Gruden: "It's unbelievable. That's all you can say about that."

No one has been more confused than the members of the defensive coaching staff, who were retained after Tony Dungy was fired three weeks ago but have no sense of where their futures will take them.

After firing Dungy, the Bucs allowed all the offensive assistants to seek new employment but kept defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, linebackers coach Joe Barry and secondary coach Mike Tomlin, who all are under contract for the 2002 season.

Four former offensive assistants followed Dungy to Indianapolis, and Dungy also wants to hire Marinelli, Barry and Tomlin.

"It's now more frustrating that ever before," Barry said. "It's not like it's one week that this has been going on. It's going on four weeks. Our families are going through it. It's getting old. We at least thought it would be over by now. It's frustrating beyond words."

That level of frustration is likely increased for Marinelli. Offered the position of defensive coordinator with the Jets last year, the Bucs blocked the promotion because they had already lost Lovie Smith (Rams) and Herman Edwards (Jets). While it is an unwritten NFL rule that teams don't block promotions, the Bucs appear set to do it again by preventing Marinelli from becoming defensive coordinator with the Colts.

"No comment," Marinelli said from his home Friday night when asked if he was frustrated with the situation.

Barber said the team still should be a contender, but added that players and prospective free agents will have concerns.

"We have to start wondering about our livelihood, and it's being seriously toyed with," Barber said. "You have to hope that (the Glazers) know what they're doing."

Added Brooks: "You hate to say that it's not (the Glazers) livelihood, because they've made their millions before. I hope they know the serious hits that their reputations are (taking) with the players."

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