Team unity, progress please Gruden
|[Times photo: Ken Helle]
Coach Jon Gruden, instructing the offense, said the team was "100 percent together" throughout the three-day minicamp.
By DARRELL FRY and RICK STROUD
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 8, 2002
TAMPA -- It was only a three-day minicamp, but the Bucs' first full-squad workout left coach Jon Gruden more than pleased.
"We got a lot done and I'm excited about that," Gruden said Sunday. "We have a long way to go in terms of mastering what we've got to get done, but we had great effort. I thought guys worked hard at the techniques and learning the system, particularly on offense and our special teams.
"I was very pleased with the results. We did some great things in all three phases and we were together, 100 percent together. Every man was here and I think unity and chemistry are sometimes overlooked, and I think we accomplished some real things that way."
The team refocuses on the April 20 draft and its next minicamp April 26-28. But Gruden said the Bucs will remain in the free-agent market.
"Free agency is still a big vehicle for us and it won't be over probably until we play our first game," he said. "We're going to continue to look for players that can come in and help this franchise."
AND STILL THE STARTER: Brad Johnson, seemingly faced with heavy competition for his starting job, came through his first head-to-head workouts against Rob Johnson and Shaun King performing well.
Gruden praised all three quarterbacks, but was particularly complimentary of Brad Johnson.
"Brad Johnson was very sharp. I was very impressed with his discipline with the football, his command of the offense and the way he threw the ball," Gruden said. "He made very good decisions and located the ball well.
"Shaun King has got to perform in the seven-on-seven and the individual periods like he does in the 11-on-11 type periods and (then) I think he'll be able to close the gap. Rob Johnson is a talent.
"All three of those guys fared fairly well, but we can all improve."
THE FRONT LINE: The offensive line, which was criticized last season for its pass protection and run blocking, is adapting well to the new offense and offensive line coach Bill Muir's style.
"I'm familiar with a lot of stuff Coach Gruden has brought in, and the other guys seem like they are picking it up really well and seem like they like the scheme," said guard Kerry Jenkins, a free-agent signee from the Jets. "I think we've got a good unit, and I think we've got great potential. With the schemes we're going to be running, things should be looking pretty good."
IS JERRY RICE AVAILABLE?: Gruden said the receiver position remains a concern, and the team isn't any closer to identifying a solid starter to play opposite Keyshawn Johnson, despite signing a handful of free agents, such as former Bronco receiver Keith Poole.
"We've got a long way to go there," Gruden said. "Some of our young players had a chance to take a lot of reps. A lot of these guys have only been here three or four days. They've had a crash course on the run.
"We need somebody to explode onto the scene from that group. Actually we need a couple of those guys to step up, not only physically but mentally and instinctively, and that's why we have to practice and practice hard."
ALL BUSINESS: One of the things that most impressed Gruden was the defense's relentless pursuit of excellence.
"I admire the defensive tempo and general enthusiasm which they work in practice with. It's not an act. These men on defense are legitimately into football," he said. "They put a lot of mental pressure on one another. There's very little tolerance for error.
"I've heard players complain about coaches yelling at players. If you're a defensive player with Tampa Bay, you're going to get yelled at by some of these defensive players. They have very little tolerance for error. I admire that.
"They're perfectionists and they expect great things. There's a high bar there in terms of standards and we want to make sure we keep raising the bar for them."
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