By RICK STROUD, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 14, 2002
TAMPA -- The Bucs failed to advance beyond the wild-card game the past two seasons, but beginning this season, they no longer will come up short.
That's because coach Jon Gruden has demonstrated his preference for taller players, particularly at the skill positions.
Last week, the Bucs signed 6-foot-5 Giants free-agent receiver Joe Jurevicius to go with 6-4 Keyshawn Johnson.
Free-agent guard Kerry Jenkins is 6-5. Quarterback Rob Johnson is 6-4.
Gruden told his scouting staff size matters, and the Bucs have begun to believe bigger is better.
"He likes big guys," said Ruston Webster, the team's college scouting director. "I think whenever a new coach comes, you've got to sit down with him and ask what do you want for a receiver, for a quarterback. So we sat down and did that, and there are some things.
"You've got to be pretty smart to play in his offense. You can't bring him a guy who may struggle."
BAD MEMORIES: Two years ago, Rob Johnson took one of the worst poundings dished out in Tampa while playing quarterback for Buffalo. He was sacked six times and left the game because of an injury. You couldn't blame him for having flashbacks during minicamp. "At least they can't hit me now," he said. "The last time we were down here, we had a tough game. It's nice to play with that type of defense.
"Last year in Buffalo, we didn't have that. It's just nice to know they'll give you some three-and-outs."
TIM BUC TWO: Sure, the Bucs' new training facility will be state of the art with all the bells and whistles. But it might not be completed until 2004.
So at the request of Gruden, the Bucs are transforming One Buc Place into a suitable environment. Renovations began last week to reconfigure the cinder-block building that has been the main headquarters for the Bucs since 1976.
What had been used as a reception area and show room for prospective club seat or sky suite owners is being changed to permit more room for team meeting rooms and offices for coaches.
Credit Gruden for convincing ownership something had to be done immediately to upgrade conditions for training camp and the regular season.
LAST WORD: From ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, on the Bucs' 2002 fortunes:
"I think they have made some great moves with Gruden. I think Tampa Bay is going to bounce back. "The last few years, they've failed to live up to expectations because the expectations were to get to the Super Bowl. But I think they'll be a factor, and I like what they've done in free agency."