Walker will stick around
By RICK STROUD, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 15, 2002
BALTIMORE -- He's tried left tackle and right tackle, but the Bucs have to find a place for Kenyatta Walker. Like Washington? Hardly.
Thanks to the salary cap system, Walker is among the many players in the NFL who virtually cannot be traded.
As the Bucs' top pick in 2001, Walker signed a five-year, $8-million contract. It included $5.2-million in guaranteed money, including $4.1-million in signing bonus.
If he were to be traded or released, the pro-rated bonuses would be accelerated at once onto the Bucs salary cap. They would have several million less to work with and no player to show for it.
"We will not trade Kenyatta Walker, I can assure you of that," coach Jon Gruden said.
Walker knows it, too, and that's the best thing the Bucs have going for them.
If he is going to become a player any time soon in this league, Walker knows he has to do it with the Bucs and by getting more tough love from offensive line coach Bill Muir.
After an air-clearing session with Gruden, Walker is said to have completed his best week of practice.
How soon he plays -- maybe today -- is up to the coaches. They could use his first-round ability.
"You'd like to say again that everything starts and ends up front," Gruden said. "It doesn't matter how many weapons you have. You've got to come together as an offensive line."
STARTING POINT: Gruden spends more time talking about juice than Tropicana. But what he is looking for is a player on offense that can get things started.
"We've got to do a better job coaching, we've got to do a better job of getting more out of some guys we think can give us more," Gruden said.
Gruden may not say it, but he thinks one of those players is Keyshawn Johnson.
Not only does Johnson have a knack for making clutch catches, but he provides extra blocking in the running game. Yet last week against New Orleans, Johnson wasn't even involved in all of the personnel groupings.
Maybe it's because Johnson spent the offseason in Los Angeles, but Gruden still is learning about the Bucs' No. 1 receiver.
So can Johnson be the guy who provides the juice?
"Yeah, we think so. He's a guy who's been a go-to receiver in a couple places," Gruden said. "(Keenan) McCardell is a guy who can also make some plays. I think (Joe) Jurevicius can work into a role like that, being optimistic here. Keyshawn is a guy who can handle just about any situation on the football field. It's a big-picture type thing.
"It's not a matter of lining up and throwing it to him or throwing it to him. We've got to protect, we've got to get him open, we've got to have good route distribution and we've got to have some balance. We've got to run the ball, we've got to run it more and we've got to run it successfully."
BE ORIGINAL: If ever a team needed to be introduced, it's the Bucs. They had seven new starters on offense last week. But in the opener at Raymond James Stadium last week, the players decided against the lineup announcements and ran onto the field as a team. It was a nice gesture of unity. But the Patriots already popularized the idea.
Besides, why deprive fans of their pregame fervor?
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