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Jenkins steps up, with broken leg

By ROGER MILLS and RICK STROUD

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 30, 2002


CINCINNATI -- In the locker room, immediately after the game, Bucs coach Jon Gruden couldn't help himself. There were many positives about the 35-7 win over the Bengals on Sunday, but he didn't want to forget one of the day's most remarkable story lines.

CINCINNATI -- In the locker room, immediately after the game, Bucs coach Jon Gruden couldn't help himself. There were many positives about the 35-7 win over the Bengals on Sunday, but he didn't want to forget one of the day's most remarkable story lines.

As the team huddled, Gruden presented left guard Kerry Jenkins with a game ball.

Few deserved one more.

Jenkins, who joined the team during the offseason, played with a cracked left fibula.

"I've never seen that, honestly as a coach, a guy has a legitimate cracked fibula," Gruden said. "I tipped my hat to him. He gets a game ball today, and I think that's a signature that Kerry Jenkins has in this league. He's a man-made player. I don't know if he'll make the Hall of Fame, but he's making mine."

Jenkins, who played with the Jets for five seasons, tried to underplay his accomplishment. Jenkins fractured the leg Monday night against the Rams and left the stadium on crutches. The initial diagnosis had Jenkins out two to four weeks. He returned to practice Friday and started Sunday.

"It's no big deal," Jenkins said. "It's the only way I know how to do it. That's what I told these guys, I'll give it all I've got. I've played with worse. No big deal."

But it was a big deal to the Bucs. With an offensive line struggling for continuity and with right tackle Kenyatta Walker unavailable because of a severe left ankle sprain, Jenkins thought it was important for him to suit up, ignore the pain and go to work.

The Bucs had no reservations.

"We're not trying to endanger anyone," Gruden said. "(Trainer) Todd Toriscelli and our training staff felt if he could bare the pain he could play and wouldn't suffer any more damage. It's a testament to a mentally tough guy that has a lot of pride and wanted to participate and help our team win."

It wasn't overlooked by Jenkins' teammates either.

"It was phenomenal," center Jeff Christy said. "It's kind of the only publicity (offensive linemen) get. He stepped up and played with a broken leg and played a pretty good game considering. I think he played a pretty good game even if he didn't have a broken leg. It's a state of mind, it's part of being mentally tough and he did a great job."

STREAK SNAPPED, FOR REAL: Quarterback Brad Johnson's streak of passes without an interception ended at a franchise-high 187 when Bengals linebacker Brian Simmons picked him off late in the first quarter. Simmons returned the interception 51 yards to put Cincinnati ahead 7-0. "When he intercepted the play I actually looked him off," Johnson said. "You usually never get the (weakside) linebacker to intercept it, you kind of play with him a little bit. But he made a great catch, and it' kind of one of those freaky things that happen. All the credit to him. The good thing about it is we didn't panic at that point."

RICKEY'S RUN: Tight end Rickey Dudley has been with Tampa Bay for two weeks and is proving that success in the NFL has a lot to do with being in the right place at the right time. Dudley, released by the Browns at the end of the preseason and out of the league for the first two weeks, was picked up by the Bucs on Sept. 17 and has scored in both of his games.

After missing on a deep slant pattern down the left side in the first quarter, Johnson hit Dudley open down the middle for a 35-yard touchdown. Two games, two touchdowns.

"It's a little bit of everything," said Dudley, who played with Gruden in Oakland. "Knowing the system helps out a lot. But I have been in the right place at the right time. My success with Gruden is well documented. I think I have 20-plus touchdowns with him and that's why I made the decision to reunite with him."

Dudley was open down field at least twice, begging the question, how does a 6-foot-6, 255-pound tight end get so open?

"We're going to make the safety commit to one side or the other and more than anything that's what allows us to get open," Dudley said.

PENALTY DECLINED?: The sign of the times in Cincinnati could be summed up in the final seconds of the first half. Trailing 21-7 and forced to punt, kicker Nick Harris was hit by Bucs tight end Todd Yoder as he attempted to block. The 15-yard penalty with nine seconds left would have given the Bengals the ball on their 47, setting up a possible desperation touchdown pass. The Bengals declined the penalty and went to the locker room.

BUCS BITS: Right tackle Cornell Green replaced Walker in the starting lineup. ... Long snapper Mike Solwold sprained his left foot. ... When the Bengals took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter it was the first time this season that they had the lead. They had been down 20-0 in each of their first three losses. ... Karl Williams' 36-yard punt return in the third quarter came when the Bengals had 12 men on the field. ... The Bucs committed seven penalties for 65 yards. ... A fan ran onto the field in the closing minutes, lining up at the 23-yard line and sprinting downfield. Security officers tackled him before he could reach the goal line. ... Corey Dillon became the Bengals' career rushing leader, passing James Brooks. Dillon ran for 59 yards and has 6,452 in his career.

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