© St. Petersburg Times, published February 25, 2003
TAMPA -- The Bucs are scheduled to talk with Jim Steiner, the agent for veteran linebacker Shelton Quarles, on Wednesday.
Quarles, along with three other starters, will become an unrestricted free agent Friday, unless the Bucs can sign him to a new deal.
Steiner expressed guarded optimism.
"Put it this way, everyone is motivated to have it happen by then," Steiner said Monday. "But can something happen? I don't know that."
Entering his seventh season in the NFL, but coming off his first as a middle linebacker, Quarles is in a good negotiating position. He finished with a career-high 159 tackles, had two interceptions and five passes defensed. His speed took some of the tackling duties away from Derrick Brooks and his downfield range played a significant role in Tampa Bay's success against the pass.
"Obviously, Shelton wants to come back, but there is no rush (for us)," Steiner said. "There might be more of a sense of urgency on the Bucs side."
Steiner said although Quarles wants to return to the No. 1 defense in the league, he likely won't do so at the expense of what could be his last big free-agent deal.
"It has to be a fair deal based on what we think his market value is to the Bucs, what they can afford to pay and what we think his market value is," Steiner said. "If we can figure that out we'll make a deal. He's worked his rare end off and it's time for a return on effort."
The Bucs also continue negotiations with Roosevelt Barnes, the agent for left tackle Roman Oben. Oben, who played for the veteran minimum $675,000 last season, started all 19 games for the Bucs. The Bucs also would like to sign Oben before the opening of the free-agent market.
GIANTS: The 21/2-year-old grass field at Giants Stadium will be replaced by an artificial surface being used with success in Detroit and Seattle. The new FieldTurf surface will be in place when the Giants and Jets start playing at the stadium in August.
TITANS: The team restructured contracts for quarterback Steve McNair and right guard Benji Olson, trimming $5-million off its salary cap as it tries to get below the projected $75-million cap. The team started the offseason approximately $14-million over the cap and must be below the cap when free agency starts Friday. Its first move was releasing backup quarterback Neil O'Donnell last week.
Orlando Predators quarterback Jay Gruden damaged the deltoid ligament on the inside of his right ankle but did not break it, X-rays revealed.
Gruden, younger brother of Bucs coach Jon Gruden and an offensive assistant on the Super Bowl winning team, was injured Friday during an Arena Football League victory in Charlotte. He could be out up to eight weeks. The Predators (4-0) have 12 games left in the regular season.
"The deltoid ligaments are the hardest to injure, but they also take the longest to heal," Predators director of sports medicine Joel Johnson said in a release. "It will be a minimum of four weeks before he can put weight on the area and at that point we will have a better idea of a possible return date."
Gruden, 35, will use both a walking boot and compression boot and will not need surgery.
"When you have someone tell you it's season ending, it's pretty crushing," Gruden said. "I thought I had taken my last snap, and I was very upset and frustrated over the weekend.
"I didn't want to go out like that because I thought we had a chance to win this thing. But I feel like this is another chance, another life in terms of football."
-- Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.