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King eyes becoming starting QB again

By RICK STROUD, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 7, 2002

TAMPA -- Shaun King is lean and fit, the result of a rigorous offseason conditioning program.

With the hiring of Jon Gruden, he never has been in better shape to regain the starting quarterback position.

"I hope so," said King after Saturday's minicamp. "Right now, we're just all trying to learn (the offense) and come out and perform at a high level.

"And hopefully, in the end, that's good enough."

Despite leading the Bucs to the NFC championship as a rookie and guiding them to a 10-6 record and a playoff appearance in 2000, King lost his job when Brad Johnson signed a five-year, $28-million contract in 2001.

King spent last season as the backup and was used only in mop-up situations.

Gruden is the fourth offensive coordinator in as many seasons for King, who should thrive in a West Coast offense because of his mobility and accuracy.

Gruden lauded King during his first news conference. But currently, the former Tulane and Gibbs High star is No.2 on the depth chart between Brad Johnson and Rob Johnson.

"I don't know. You'd have to ask the head guy that," King said when asked for an assessment. "I'm just trying to do what I can and try to do as well as I can. Wherever that leads me, I've tried to learn not to worry about what I can't control.

"In the end, however he decides to work it, we're going to go with it and try to win."

King described Gruden's system as one that should improve the performance of all the offensive players.

"You have to give (Gruden) credit," King said. "He knows what he's doing. He understands how to get guys in matchups and how to force the defense's hands into things.

"I think it'll be good for all of us. That's why the turnout is so high. The guys are willing to come in and learn it because they believe in what we're doing."

KEY TO VICTORY: Keyshawn Johnson is a fixture at receiver, but his success might depend on who is No.2.

With Jacquez Green and Reidel Anthony in Washington, the Bucs have Frank Murphy, Milton Wynn, Keith Poole, E.G. Green, Drew O'Connor, Eddie Hardaway, Jonathan Pittman, Darryl Daniel and Frank Rice.

But you can almost guarantee the player lining up opposite Johnson next season currently wears another uniform.

Several top-flight free agents, including the Chiefs' Derrick Alexander, the Jaguars' Keenen McCardell and the Packers' Antonio Freeman, could become available after June1.

"The guy opposite me is going to be very important, whether it's a guy who's already here or somebody they're going to go and get," Johnson said.

"Every (receiver) that has done well in this offensive system had a No.2 opposite of him, whether it was John Taylor and Jerry (Rice), or Tim (Brown) and Jerry, or Antonio Freeman and the guys he had, or Terrell Owens and J.J. (Stokes). So hopefully, they'll make a decision what they want to do and bring somebody in or see somebody they like here."

Johnson, who caught 106 passes in the regular season with just one touchdown, said he has faith in Gruden's system.

"You watch film of other teams that he's been around and say, "How did Jerry Rice get so wide open?"' Johnson said.

"Then you look at the film, and you're like, "Oh, okay, this is how.' All that is stuff we're doing now. So hopefully, we can get wide open."

QUOTE THE DAY: "It's going to take some time, but we have a very short time. Little Jonny here is a very impatient man." -- Gruden.

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  • King eyes becoming starting QB again
  • Kelly breaks bones in hand

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