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Look for a livelier bunch of players

By RICK STROUD, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 11, 2002

LAKE BUENA VISTA -- The first thing you will notice about Jon Gruden's team is players will show emotions.

The chin will never touch the chest, shoulders will never slouch, walking will be replaced by running.

Those Bucs who are not naturally animated have been given a stern warning.

If you don't feel it, fake it.

"I don't like to see a lot of lower lips hanging out or mush-mouth looks," Gruden said. "I like to see guys who are wide-eyed. You know, I like to see the dog's tail wagging. I like to see guys genuinely enjoying and into what they're doing."

After six seasons of Bucs fans wanting to hold a mirror under Tony Dungy's nose to see if he was breathing, the highly energized Gruden wants the fire in his team to burn a little brighter.

Not only will Gruden get in the face of a player, he expects to get it right back.

But with a veteran team like Tampa Bay, Gruden says he hasn't had to go to the whip very often.

"The difference with this team than almost any place I've ever seen, the players enforce just about everything," Gruden said. "And if a guy is not running to the ball, I don't have to say a word. There's nine or 10 guys that are all over that guy. Some of these guys are a hell of a lot more relentless than I am and that's the great thing about this football team."

* * *

THREE THINGS CAMP TELLS US: 1. Brad Johnson will be the starting quarterback when the Bucs open against New Orleans on Sept. 8. But sometime during the season, Rob Johnson probably will get a shot to add some juice to the offense because Gruden is enamored with his athleticism.

2. The starting offensive line has been set for weeks: left tackle Roman Oben, left guard Kerry Jenkins, center Jeff Christy, right guard Cosey Coleman and right tackle Kenyatta Walker. But once Lomas Brown works into shape, he'll get a shot to take Oben's spot.

3. Shelton Quarles will start at middle linebacker. Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin has a gentleman's wager that Quarles will make the Pro Bowl. That means Nate Webster would have to be as good as the Redskins' Jeremiah Trotter to beat out Quarles.

* * *

AGENT ORANGE: According to the NFL, individual teams can decide if they want to participate in a turn-back-the-clock game after Nov. 1. Tampa Bay submitted pictures of it old uniform to the league office. It's uncertain whether the Bucs once again will wear the stilletto-chewing, plumed pirate on their helmet and orange jerseys. In the Bucs case, throw-back uniforms are throw-up uniforms.

"Those orange uniforms bring back some bad memories," general manager Rich McKay said.

* * *

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "I'm going to be emotional, I just can't help myself. I'm just going to try not to be a basket case." -- Gruden on the upcoming first preseason game.

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  • RB looks like a good catch
  • Look for a livelier bunch of players
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