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King plans to return as Buc backup

The free-agent quarterback is ready to compete with Shane Matthews for the No. 2 spot.

By RICK STROUD, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 16, 2003

TAMPA -- Shaun King knows he will have to wait to be a starting quarterback again in the NFL. But he doesn't want to start over.

King said Saturday he expects to return to the Bucs next season, meaning this would be the first time in his four-year career he will enter training camp not having to learn a new offense.

It's unlikely King will be signed in time to begin quarterback orientation Monday. But the former Gibbs High star said he is looking forward to competing for the No. 2 spot with former Redskin Shane Matthews, who agreed to a one-year deal Friday.

"We've talked the whole time, and they've kept us informed what they're doing," King said. "We're both interested, and I'm confident something will happen soon.

"The only reason I would've considered leaving was because I wanted the opportunity to start. Once that was gone, and there were only a few places like that to begin with, there was never anywhere besides Tampa I wanted to play."

Bucs coach Jon Gruden and general manager Rich McKay repeatedly have expressed interest in re-signing King.

King, 25, hasn't visited other teams and watched starting quarterback jobs go to Jake Plummer in Denver, Jeff Blake in Arizona and Kordell Stewart in Chicago.

The door has been open for King to return to the Bucs, especially after backup Rob Johnson signed with the Redskins two weeks ago.

"They've been honest with me from the beginning. It's not like I woke up yesterday and said, 'Wow! What happened?' " King said. "Shane signed for the minimum. We're both working on trying to get something else done. It'll happen."

King played little last season but started against Pittsburgh, his first start in nearly two seasons. King completed 9 of 26 passes for 73 yards in a 17-7 loss. His second attempt was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by cornerback Chad Brown. King was replaced in the third quarter by Rob Johnson and spent the remainder of the season as the inactive third quarterback.

But Gruden's system was the fourth offense King learned in as many seasons.

"I've talk with Jon, too, and we want the same thing," King said. "I've had four coordinators in four years, and I'd really like a chance to see what I could do if I stayed in the same system for a number of years. I'm really excited to see the type of progress I can make."

In 2000, his first full season as a starter, King went 10-6 in the regular season and led the Bucs to the playoffs, where they lost at Philadelphia in the NFC wild-card game. Despite a 15-9 record as a starter (he started seven games in '99, including two playoff games) he was replaced in '01 when Brad Johnson was signed.

King said he is comfortable returning as a backup.

"Yeah, I realize what my role would be. But people forget I'm only 25," King said. "Believe me, I'm competitive and I want to play. But if I have to sit behind Brad another year, I'll just be 26. If it's two years, I'll be 27. I've just got to make the best of it and try to get better and improve and be ready when the opportunity comes."

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