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Whatever his role, Alstott thrilled

By RICK STROUD, DARRELL FRY and ROGER MILLS
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 28, 2002

TAMPA -- Mike Alstott still is trying to find a place in the Bucs offense, but he is relieved he will not have to find a new team.

This minicamp is more stress-free than the first for Alstott, whose contract situation was resolved April 19 when he signed a five-year, $8-million deal.

"I'm just ecstatic to be here and be in a situation with a championship organization and be able to win a Super Bowl and to be here and finish out my career here and keep my family here in Tampa," Alstott said. "It's a dream and I live my dream every day."

Alstott is playing both fullback and running back and is being used in various personnel groupings as a ballcarrier and receiver.

"I'll be ready for every situation. Running back, fullback -- whatever situation they want to put me in, I'll be ready," Alstott said.

Coach Jon Gruden said he still is devising ways to use Alstott in the backfield with tailback Michael Pittman.

"The guy is going to play, he's going to fit back there somewhere and we're looking forward to working with him," Gruden said.

THE EARLY REPORT: It's far too early for new offensive line coach Bill Muir to make comprehensive assessments of a line that gave up 47 sacks last season, but Muir praised the unit's work ethic.

"I like the way they are working. They are working good," he said. "What we're asking of them in the weight room, in the classroom and on the field, they are responding with a very impressive work ethic and I think that's a giant step in the right direction."

Muir said guard Kerry Jenkins, who came to the Bucs from the Jets along with Muir, has been teaching the other linemen the nuances of Muir's scheme.

"Some players don't want to ask questions and appear stupid, so they can go to him and say, "What does he mean,' " Muir said. "I don't think that's crucial, but it's certainly been an assist."

THE WHOLE TRUTH: Almost lost among the team's receivers is veteran Karl Williams, who was recently re-signed. Despite the competition, Williams remains confident.

"That's the name of the game -- competition," he said. "At this level, it's always going to be tough. It's always been tough ever since I made it here. Nothing is given to you in this league."

Williams, who has added value because of his kick and punt return abilities, said his biggest challenge is learning the new offense. "Then I can go out there and let my natural abilities take over," he said.

At 5 feet 10, 177 pounds, Williams doesn't appear a natural fit among Gruden's gigantic receivers, but he already has caught the coaches' eye.

"I'm happy to have Karl "The Truth' in here," Gruden said. "And the truth is, he's pretty good."

NUMBERS GAME: Forgive Bucs quarterbacks for temporarily confusing tight end Ken Dilger and receiver Joe Jurevicius. They both were wearing No. 85.

With 16 receivers in camp, the Bucs ran out of jersey numbers for the latest additions and assigned them the same number. To further complicate things, third-round pick Marquise Walker, who wears No. 4, by NFL rules will change to a number in the 80s when the season starts. Neither player seems to care.

"Hey, I'm just glad I have a number," joked Dilger, who is senior to Jurevicius and has been to the Pro Bowl.

Added Jurevicius: "All I know is that Ken is a good guy and has been No. 85 for a long time. If one of the numbers pops up, he can have No. 85. Numbers are not that big for me."

Jurevicius said he's aware of a Major League Baseball tradition of one player getting into a "a financial arrangement" for another player's number.

"Here's the deal, I'm trying to save my money, so I'm not going to pay," he said. "I'm one of the smart guys."

BUCS BITS: Defensive tackle Warren Sapp (left shoulder), defensive end Marcus Jones (left shoulder), linebackers Derrick Brooks (left foot sprain) and Nate Webster (shoulders), receiver Keith Poole (hamstring) and cornerback Brian Kelly (right thumb) did not practice. Cornerback Dwight Smith, playing with the first team in Kelly's absence, returned to practice after missing Friday's afternoon session.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "You never have enough weapons. The Yankees don't have enough weapons. I'm sure coach (George) Steinbrenner feels the same way." -- Gruden on all his offensive options.


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