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By ROGER MILLS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 3, 2002

Biekert's experience benefits Minnesota

One difference between the Vikings defense this season and the one that was shredded for 446 yards last season in Tampa is middle linebacker Greg Biekert.

A 10-year veteran who spent nine seasons with the Raiders, Biekert signed with the Vikings on Sept. 3 and immediately became the team's most experienced defensive player.

"He's a physical guy, he's a leader," said Bucs coach Jon Gruden, who spent four seasons with Biekert in Oakland. "He's not the fastest middle linebacker in the league and probably not the most athletic, but there's not a guy that I've been around that plays more inspired football than this guy."

Biekert leads the Vikings with 61 tackles and is determined not to let the Bucs put up big numbers again. "He's a physical linebacker," Gruden said. "He's going to blitz. He's going to take on the fullback. He's going to stay on the field in every situation and is going to fight to the bitter end."

INSIDE STUFF

Throughout the offseason, the Bucs defense worked on containing mobile quarterbacks. So planning for Daunte Culpepper should not require much deviation.

"It was a huge focus," safety John Lynch said. "We had a lot of rules built into our system and we have the ability now to adjust. ... Our defensive line has done a good job of not getting themselves out of rush lanes, staying at the level of the quarterback, running those guys down, and they have made us effective."

The Bucs controlled Falcons quarterback Michael Vick and kept Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb contained but did not have the same success in the season-opening loss to New Orleans.

"It's a fact of life in this league," Lynch said. "There are quarterbacks that not only can throw the ball but are very effective runners. You see Donovan go for 200-yard games this year. Michael is tearing it up and Daunte has carried the ball 45 times this year already. Quarterbacks are carrying the ball a lot more this year. It's a challenge, but it's something you have to prepare for."

WHEN LAST THEY MET

Mike Alstott rushed for 129 yards and backup Aaron Stecker added 30 and a 35-yard touchdown reception to lead the Bucs to a 41-14 win over the Vikings. Playing at home, the Bucs had a 28-point halftime lead on two Alstott runs, Stecker's catch and a 5-yard touchdown reception by Dave Moore. Martin Gramatica added field goals from 44 and 48 yards. Alstott completed the rout with a 10-yard score in the third.

FIGURATIVELY SPEAKING

7: wins in the first nine games would tie the 2002 Bucs with the 1979 team for the best start.

16: interceptions by the Bucs this season.

41: interceptions thrown by Culpepper in four seasons.

56: career touchdowns for Randy Moss

85: team-high tackles by middle linebacker Shelton Quarles.

THE LAST WORD

"It will be fun. It's kind of a combination looking at it, of Jon's stuff and some of the stuff they've been doing over the last few years. I know Jon's offense. I've practiced against it for years. They do a lot of motion and shifting to try and confuse a defense, and you just have to be prepared for it and ready for it." -- Biekert on his familiarity with Gruden's offense.


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