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Offense passable, high marks for pep

By DARRELL FRY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 16, 2002

TAMPA -- Another phase of reconstruction is complete. The Bucs wrapped up the final offseason minicamp Saturday, one designed to acclimate new players and implement coach Jon Gruden's version of the West Coast offense.

Now, the team has time off until training camp begins in late July in Orlando. Gruden was satisfied with the team's development.

"I was really, really impressed with the effort and the enthusiasm that these guys showed every single day," he said. "They need to get rejuvenated and they need to get themselves away from the game a little bit, I think, and get ready to go here, because it's going to be exciting."

The new offense continues to be a hot topic. Free-agent receiver Keenan McCardell was signed during minicamp, giving the team another reason for optimism.

Gruden said the offense needs more work, but he likes how it has come together so far.

"They're getting there," he said. "We're trying every way we can to stimulate them, give them a lot of different sets and packages and formations and different situational football aspects on this field and they are responding to it.

"We worked hard in the red zone today. We took the coaches off the field, we moved the ball, worked on our substitutions and sideline communications. They're getting there, but it will continue to be refined for the next whatever it is before we play New Orleans (Sept. 8 in the season opener)."

READY, SET, GO: The Bucs traditionally have been a slow starting team, but that could change. They have done more offseason work than before, and Gruden is known for getting his teams out of the gate quickly.

Can he do it with Tampa Bay?

"That's a goal we have, yeah," he said. "We want to be a fast starting team and a fast finishing team. We want to be a consistent football team, too.

"Football is a game where it's not where you line up, it's where you wind up. Getting off to a good start gives you a chance to do the things you want to do late in the year. But we want to be a dominating football team, particularly early and at home. Hopefully that will carry over and build momentum for the later part of the season."

CAN YOU HEAR ME?: The Bucs worked on everything at this minicamp, everything.

They even practiced communicating using the wireless equipment that connects Gruden to the quarterback, who hears the play sent in through a tiny speaker in his helmet.

"We went through it four or five times, just to practice the sequence of moving the ball and how he'll give you the play during the game and what you might want to check," quarterback Brad Johnson said. "I've practiced that everywhere I've been. It's something you always want to practice to make sure the communication is clear and also because the play may not come through on the headphones and you still have to get the play off in the 30- or 35-second time period."

DON'T BET ON IT: The Bucs likely will be chosen again by media outlets as a strong Super Bowl contender. But Gruden was unconcerned, especially considering the past three champions (St. Louis, Baltimore and New England) were not unanimous preseason picks.

"It's utter hogwash," Gruden said. "(But) I have a lot of friends in the media, so I'll stay out of that."

NUMBER, PLEASE: Free-agent receiver Joe Jurevicius practiced in jersey No. 83. He had worn 85, the same as tight end Ken Dilger. But 83 also was assigned to free-agent receiver Keith Poole, who has not practiced the past month because of hamstring injuries.

Back to the Bucs
Today's lineup

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  • Offense passable, high marks for pep
  • Southern Fryed

  • Rays
  • Offense sputters for Rays
  • Naimoli not thinking 'what if' with Giants
  • Bierbrodt released from the hospital
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