© St. Petersburg Times, published August 24, 2002
TAMPA -- Imagine memorizing a playbook as thick as Webster's dictionary, sweating through the offseason program, two-a-days in training camp, hunkering down in a five-star hotel for three weeks and getting fleeced for the dinner tab on Camaraderie Night.
You are so close to being an NFL player Melissa Stark has your cell and pager number.
But by this time next week, you might be in cell phone and pager sales. Welcome to life as a rookie.
For some, tonight's preseason game against the Redskins will be the last in an NFL uniform.
All teams must reduce rosters to 65 by 4 p.m. Tuesday.
"We've got some good players. They need to worry about the things they can control," coach Jon Gruden said. "And that's their own game, making plays and executing within the realm of the offense or the defense and letting the coaches and front office determine who makes the team."
Here's a position-by-position look at the Bucs, with the number of players expected to be kept at each spot and how the competition shakes out:
QUARTERBACKS (3): Brad Johnson, Rob Johnson and Shaun King are the only arms in camp.
The fight for No. 2 continues tonight. Rob Johnson has two TD passes but King is closing fast and drew praise from Gruden this week.
RUNNING BACKS (5-6): Michael Pittman, Mike Alstott, Aaron Stecker, Travis Stephens and Jameel Cook are locks. Dicenzo Miller, Zain Gilmore and Ken Walker need help.
Only a prolonged injury to Pittman might prompt the team to carry more than five backs and all could be active on Sundays.
OFFENSIVE LINE (8-9): Roman Oben, Kerry Jenkins, Jeff Christy, Cosey Coleman, Kenyatta Walker, Todd Washington and Lomas Brown are set. Jerry Wunsch is on the bubble. Guard/tackle Cornell Green has history with Bill Muir and could stick. Russ Hochstein and Pete Pierson are fighting for the remaining spots. Brian Gruber, Yusuf Scott, Shane Grice and Zack Quaccia could be packing.
Wunsch only plays right guard and his lack of versatility and $1-million salary could make him expendable.
RECEIVERS (5-6): Keyshawn Johnson, Keenan McCardell, Joe Jurevicius, Marquise Walker and Karl Williams are in. Frank Murphy, despite his early success in preseason, needs to finish strong. Aaron Lockett, E.G. Green and Milton Wynn are on the bubble. Jermale Kelly, Eddie Hardaway and Darryl Daniel need help.
Lockett gets one game to make something happen as a returner.
DEFENSIVE LINE (8-9): Simeon Rice, Warren Sapp, Anthony McFarland, Marcus Jones, Greg Spires, Chartric Darby and Ellis Wyms are locks. Buck Gurley, Corey Smith and Ron Warner are on the bubble. Cedric Pittman, Tommie Townsend and John Stamper need help.
The Bucs like Gurley while Smith is ahead of Warner on the depth chart.
LINEBACKERS (6-7): Derrick Brooks, Shelton Quarles, Al Singleton, Nate Webster and Ryan Nece are locks. Jack Golden and Joe Todd are on the bubble. Chris Jones, Jamal White and Tony Ortiz need help.
Golden likely makes it for special teams. The Bucs could scan the waiver wire for veterans.
DEFENSIVE BACKS (8-9): Ronde Barber, Brian Kelly, John Lynch, Dexter Jackson, Dwight Smith, Terrell Buckley, David Gibson and Jermaine Phillips are in. John Howell, Tim Wansley and Corey Ivy are on the bubble. Markese Fitzgerald, Corey Chamblin, Glenn Sumter and Dwayne Stukes need help.
Howell hurt himself by missing the first two weeks of camp. The Bucs also love Wansley, a teammate of Phillips at Georgia.
SPECIALISTS (3): Martin Gramatica, Tom Tupa and Mike Solwold are locks.