Gruden happy with competition, may insert more
By DARRELL FRY and ROGER MILLS
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 29, 2002
TAMPA -- The Bucs wrapped up their second minicamp Sunday and while coach Jon Gruden said final personnel decisions won't be made until much later, player performance at the camp could have weighty implications.
Jon Gruden: "We're going to live our lives in the future, and we've got to continue to improve in every area."
"Absolutely, you can put yourself behind. It's competitive," he said. "Right now people are jockeying for position in terms of how many reps you're going to get, who's going to be in the rotation with the ones, who's going to be in the rotation with the twos, who's going to be in the rotation with the threes.
"Everything is being evaluated, from the execution to how you're doing in the meeting room. Every aspect of their play is being evaluated and guys are jockeying for position. It's very competitive at some positions in particular."
Gruden said the second minicamp helped lay a foundation for implementing the new offense and added that players should look toward the upcoming months rather than ponder on the past.
"We have not arrived in any area, and what you've done in the past is in the past," Gruden said. "We're going to live our lives in the future, and we've got to continue to improve in every area."
AND NOW ON TO FREE AGENCY: After two minicamps, Gruden is getting a sense for what he has as a team and he suggested the roster still isn't set. The Bucs could become a major player in the second wave of free agency, which begins June 1 when a number of high-salaried free agents are expected to be released.
"We'll see who's available," Gruden said. "If someone catches our eye, whether it's an offensive or defensive player, if it makes sense for our team, we'll definitely pull the trigger. If someone out there can give us a winning edge, we won't hesitate to bring him in."
HELP WANTED: After losing former Pro Bowl cornerback Donnie Abraham to the Jets, Ronde Barber has noticed one thing about the secondary, and it seems to be a theme throughout the defense: lack of depth.
"And they have to be reliable for us because you never know when your time is going to come," Barber said. "My second year in the league it took one play and I was (put) into the game. You have to know what's going on. ... You've got to know your stuff and you've got to know it fast."
Barber is coming off his best season with 10 interceptions, but he hasn't relaxed. In the offseason he studied film of last season, trying to find ways to improve.
"There are more plays out there for me," he said. "If you look at all the opportunities that I had, I probably had a bad year in that respect.
"I've got a lot more plays to make. If I can put it all together, it'll be fun."
INSPIRED OPPORTUNITY: Defensive end Greg Spires, a free-agent acquisition who has a chance to replace Steve White, said he will have to earn a spot in an already tight defensive line rotation.
"No doubt, it's going to take some work," Spires said. "With this unit, it's like its own fraternity. They are hard on each other so you don't have to worry about a coach getting on you because the guys around you are going to get on you.
"Everything you do is going to be observed by your linemates. They're going to criticize you when you mess up, they're going to praise you when you make a play. It's a good thing."
Spires said he decided to sign with the Bucs in part because of the high standard the team had for its defensive line and the faith he has in line coach Rod Marinelli.
"He charted me all through college and he saw what I did throughout the league in my first few years," the former Florida State player said. "Then he grabbed me up when they had an opening. I have to give him some of the credit for staying with me."
THE RETURNS: Although they have been extremely vocal through the first two minicamps, Pro Bowl players Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp have not been part of the action. That could change in the coming weeks as Brooks (left foot strain) and Sapp (right shoulder surgery) are soon expected back.
Derrick Brooks Warren Sapp
Nonetheless, watching from the sideline hasn't been easy.
"Hopefully I'll be back by the June (13-15) camp," Brooks said. "The thing with me now is that they would rather be more cautious. If it was a new defense or something like that, then I would be concerned. But we're fine-tuning some old stuff and adding a few new wrinkles. It's probably the best thing for me right now, sitting back and watching. I'm starting to miss it a bit and want to get my juices flowing a bit."
Sapp, who played the entire 2001 season with a torn rotator cuff, had shoulder surgery before the Super Bowl and could be cleared to play as early as May 18.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I like him. I think he's a welcome change. I definitely have my feelings for Tony (Dungy), but I think we needed a kick and I think he's definitely the guy to do it." -- Barber on Gruden's presence.
Back to the Bucs
BucsIs Bucs D still good enough?
Gruden happy with competition, may insert more
RaysSlew of factors has Rays lost at the plate
Rays: Up next
McRae considering time off to help Vaughn end slump
McGrady promises a Game 5
Rookie Johnson a new winner with old tires
Daily fishing report
Elites feel pressured by multiple waves