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What is, and what easily could have been for Bucs

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By GARY SHELTON, Times Sports Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times
published April 21, 2002


TAMPA -- In the real world, we wait.

Here in the land the draft forgot, it is lonely. Crickets chirp. A tumbleweed rolls past. Every now and then, a lone wolf howls.

In the back of the room, a radio guy is doing card tricks. A writer watches a DVD on his computer. Someone else plays a handheld Scrabble game. Another writer reads a book. War and Peace. He might need more book. Every now and then someone makes a joke about the large boar's head over Warren Sapp's locker: Gee, he must eat a lot of ham.

In the real world, nothing is happening.

The Bucs did a lot of milling around Saturday. They ate a little. They talked a little. They watched some tapes. They sat like wallflowers, waiting for someone to ask them to dance.

Saturday the Bucs made the first two installment payments on the Jon Gruden purchase. Was he worth it it? We'll see.

If anyone ever had a right to wonder what might have been had the dominoes fallen differently, however, it is fans of the Bucs.

In the real world, we imagine.

* * *

In another world, Tony Dungy is happy.

He stands at the front of the room at 4:23 p.m., talking about his draft pick and whether it will help him as he prepares for his seventh season as coach of the Bucs.

Yep, it was touch-and-go there for a while, but the Bucs chose to stay the course with Dungy, who once again changed offensive coordinators when he hired former Bucs quarterback Jack "the Throwin' Samoan" Thompson.

"We think Jack will do a great job," Dungy said. "We thought about doing the same thing we've always done for our offensive coordinators. We were going to pick a fast, undersized wide receiver from Florida and then ask him to block and catch 5-yard slants."

The Bucs also considered quarterback Patrick Ramsey to add depth to their list of former Tulane stars.

In the end, the Bucs decided to pick running back Clinton Portis of Miami. Portis is expected to replace tailback Warrick Dunn, whose contract with Atlanta was unmatchable in all realities.

Dungy said the draft choice ended the team's brief flirtation with free-agent running back Michael Pittman, who has had questions regarding his character.

"We like Clinton," Dungy said, "and we anticipate scoring a touchdown sometime during September."

* * *

In another world, Bill Parcells cannot make up his mind.

He is in an office in the back of One Buc Place, yelling at his scouts. Parcells woke up in a foul mood -- after all, Saturday was an even-numbered day -- and decided to resign after 21/2 months as coach.

Fortunately, Parcells forgot all about it while deciding whether to have eggs or pancakes for breakfast, whether to wear a white shirt or a red one, whether to have a Coke or a Pepsi and whether to sign with AT&T or MCI.

Parcells began to get angry again, however, when a scout suggested that maybe, just maybe, the Bucs should consider taking tight end Daniel Graham.

Parcells, however, wanted a defensive player. Parcells always wants a defensive player. This time he picked defensive end Charles Grant.

"Anybody want make something of it?" Parcells asked.

* * *

In another world, Steve Spurrier is putting.

Draft confusion? What draft confusion? Spurrier played a quick 27 holes Saturday morning, pulled up to One Buc at 4:15, picked Reche Caldwell and went back to the putting green.

"Best available Gator," Spurrier said as he walked out the door.

In other news, Spurrier said he expected big, big things from new acquisitions Ike Hilliard, Shane Matthews and Errict Rhett.

Meanwhile, rumors of a Derrick Brooks trade continued to circulate.

* * *

In another world, Marvin Lewis is humming.

Earlier, Lewis had been disappointed. Because of salary-cap limitations the Bucs had declined to throw all the money he wanted to throw at linebackers Jessie Armstead and Jeremiah Trotter. Instead, he picked Northwestern's Napoleon Harris.

"I love linebackers," Lewis said. "Napoleon could be another Ray Lewis, but we're going to try to get him some counseling instead."

* * *

In another world, Norv Turner is beaming.

Turner has just drafted a 6-8, 480-pound tailback who runs the 40 in 3.8 seconds. Hey, if you can imagine Turner getting the job, you can imagine anything.

* * *

In another world, Nick Saban is busy.

Saban, the former LSU coach, is trying to catch up to the pro game.

"I've just unpacked," Saban said. "Until this morning I didn't know whether we should go after hard-nosed players or soft-nosed, or after the best athlete or the third-best athlete."

Instead, Saban picked former LSU receiver Josh Reed.

"It's what Steve Spurrier would have done," Saban said.

* * *

In another world, Mike Mularkey is trying to explain, one more time, just who he is.

Mularkey would have drafted Nebraska guard Toniu Fonoti, "because he's big."

Why not safety Ed Reed?

"Because he's not big,"Mularkey said. "I like big."

* * *

In another world, Ralph Friedgen is heavy.

Because of that, he would have drafted Auburn's Kendall Simmons.

"That way, I have someone to stand next to in the team photo," Friedgen said.

* * *

In another world, Steve Mariucci is trying to mask his disappointment.

Despite working the telephones furiously, Mariucci was unable to complete a draft-day trade.

"I was trying to move me back to San Francisco," Mariucci said. "I left my heart there."

Instead, Mariucci did the next best thing. He picked Pitt receiver Antonio Bryant. "He reminds me of Terrell Owens," Mariucci said. "In time, I'm sure we'll hate each other, too."

* * *

In the real world, the clock moves in slow motion.

Is this better? The honest answer is that no one knows.

Gruden has had a good beginning. The offense is suddenly an interesting blend of talents and, more important, ideas. The defense needs a linebacker or three, but it shouldn't be bad. This team should win its division.

What happens afterward? That's the question, isn't it? We have to see those weekends before we can determine whether the price of this weekend was worth it.

In the real world, we wait.

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