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Tapping Cleveland pipeline

By RICK STROUD, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 13, 2003

TAMPA -- What was it Cincinnati coach Sam Wyche once told an unruly Bengals crowd? "You don't live in Cleveland."

Neither does linebacker Dwayne Rudd. Or offensive tackle Roman Oben or defensive end Greg Spires or tight end Rickey Dudley.

Tampa Bay is better for it.

Rudd, who signed a two-year contract last week, is the latest import from Cleveland. His addition gives the Bucs the best linebacking corps in the NFL.

All those defections make the Browns' eyes blue.

"Jon Gruden and I were laughing (the other day)," Cleveland coach Butch Davis said. "He was talking about having two or three ex-Browns on his team. I said, 'If they would've played for us like they played for you, they wouldn't have been ex-Browns."'

Davis would've liked Rudd to return, but he was a salary-cap casualty.

"He's a good football player," Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said. "This will be his third team. I don't know everything that happened before. All I know is that this is Greg Spires' third team. He played at New England, he played at Cleveland and evidently people didn't think he was that good. But he played pretty darn good for us. If you check with (Raiders tackle) Lincoln Kennedy, he'll say Spires played pretty good in the Super Bowl. So we've had some players come from Cleveland and play pretty well for us. ... We've had pretty good success, and hopefully Dwayne Rudd will be one of those guys, too."

FIRST MATTERS: With the addition of Rudd, the Bucs will have first-round draft picks in five of their front seven positions: defensive end Simeon Rice, defensive tackles Warren Sapp and Anthony McFarland and linebacker Derrick Brooks.

That's something to remember when you consider this is the second straight season and third time in the past four Tampa Bay will not have a first-round selection. The Bucs' first pick is 64th overall.

GREAT MOVE: It's too early to put him in the Pro Bowl, but Dwight Smith's shift from cornerback to free safety looks brilliant.

Smith showed tremendous instincts at his new position last week during three voluntary team workouts. There will be more adjustments, but Smith's move looks as promising as the Shelton Quarles shift to middle linebacker last season.

"It's just the pace I play at. When you're back there at safety, it's easy to be too fast and end up too deep and things like that," Smith said. "Right now, I'm just trying to work on my rate, my backpedal rate, the rate I break on things and my angles. Because it's all new and different."

QUOTABLE: "Simeon Rice is going to check in here. He is on one of the foreign planets right now. Which one, I don't know."

-- Gruden on Rice's absence from voluntary workouts.

-- Times staff writer Roger Mills contributed to this report.

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