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Dropped passes draw ire of Gruden

By Times staff writers

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 23, 2002


TAMPA -- The Bucs have not had trouble catching on to Jon Gruden's offense. Holding on to passes is another story.

TAMPA -- The Bucs have not had trouble catching on to Jon Gruden's offense. Holding on to passes is another story.

After suffering through another practice in which several passes were dropped, Gruden lashed into his receivers, tight ends and running backs.

"We've dropped too many balls since I've been in Tampa, honestly. It's irritating, it's offensive," Gruden said. "I think we dropped six balls in Jacksonville last week and dropped four or five against the Dolphins. It's a bad, bad, bad thing when you drop the football. We were careless at times today. ... We've not done an average job of that. We've done a poor job of that lately, and it's something we're going to take a close look at, obviously, and try to improve."

One of those players trying to improve is Frank Murphy, who followed his 3-yard touchdown reception with two drops in Friday's game at Jacksonville. Murphy continued to struggle with his hands and confidence in practice Thursday.

"I'm fighting it and that's part of football and something we all can't do," Murphy said. "Just relax and let it flow like we've been doing all this time. It's just come a time when it's mentally grinding right now.

"There's a lot of stuff going through your head. You're trying so hard, you know the play is coming to you, you want to catch it and score. Just take the first step first. I'm having problems with the slant. I've got to get used to seeing the ball come on me so quick when you make the cut."

Murphy stayed after practice for extra work on slant routes, but he is not the only offender. Tight end Marco Battaglia and running back Michael Pittman also had drops in practice.

Gruden said bad hands can prevent a young player from earning a job.

"Absolutely. You know, you've got to catch the ball," Gruden said. "It's hard to get guys open in this league, and it's hard to keep the ball in your hand very long if you're a quarterback. You've got to throw the ball hot, high and a lot of times into fairly tight coverage. You've got to catch the ball away from your body, you've got to make plays on the high ball, the low ball, but you can't drop the football. You've got to make plays." GETTING HIS SHOT: Newly acquired guard/tackle Cornell Green knows a good opportunity when he sees it. And he thinks joining the Bucs is a good situation for him because he'll likely get a lot of chances with veterans Todd Washington and Cosey Coleman hurting.

"Everything is looking very good right now," said Green, who came to the Bucs in a trade this week with Miami. "I'm going to get a shot. They didn't make this acquisition just for me to sit on the sidelines. They want me to get out there and show what I can do."

Picking up the offense is a little easier for Green, because he played under offensive line coach Bill Muir last season when both were with the Jets. Green said Muir primarily has stuck with the same blocking scheme he used in New York.

"It's kind of like the same. The terms are the same," he said. "I'm just trying to get used to it again, get in the playbook and learn as much as I can as quick as I can, so I can come out here and try to help the team anyway I can."

Green, a product of St. Petersburg's Lakewood High, said he's looking forward to Saturday's preseason game against the Redskins. Green is expected to get plenty of playing time and undoubtedly will have plenty of supporters among the home crowd.

"It's real good to be back home," he said. "I got a lot of love. A lot of people told me congratulations and that they are praying for me, and I need all of that, so it's cool."

THAT'S MY BOY: Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott attended practice as a guest of his son, linebacker Ryan Nece. Nece and Lott had breakfast in the morning, and the former 49ers safety spent time watching Nece and other members of the Bucs secondary.

INJURIES: Coleman (torn left knee) and defensive tackle Buck Gurley (right ankle sprain) remain sidelined and didn't practice. Receiver Milton Wynn (right knee strain) didn't practice. Running back Michael Pittman (right ankle sprain) was limited.

-- RICK STROUD, DARRELL FRY, ROGER MILLS

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