Offense, defense square off at camp
By RICK STROUD, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 20, 2003
LAKE BUENA VISTA - In the offseason, Jon Gruden and Monte Kiffin are beach buddies at Indian Rocks, where the Bucs coach has a condo and the defensive coordinator owns a home.
But when training camp starts, they try to see how much sand they can kick in each other's face.
"It's incredibly competitive between Gruden and Monte. After a while, they won't even be sitting with each other at dinner," safety John Lynch said. "But that's what training camp is all about. Competition brings out the best in everyone. We have a real competitive environment here.
"A couple years ago, it used to be on a daily basis the defense would (beat) on them. And we've got some tough competition, and we look forward to that."
The Bucs always have played on a lopsided field, with a defense that has ranked as one of the league's best and an offense that couldn't make a first down against it.
But Gruden changed that last season.
"It's a very unique competition that way," Gruden said. "It's not one of the normal training camps I've taken part of. We're trying to do everything we can offensively to attack this defense and have success, and they're doing the same thing. ... It's very competitive on the practice field and in the coaches' meeting rooms, and I think that's something our players feed off of. We've got great competitors in our locker room as well."
Sometimes the competition gets out of hand in training camp, leading to altercations.
"Training camp really becomes a time you've got to check yourself every now and then and remember that those guys are your teammates," Lynch said.
Even Gruden can get the bad blood flowing, inciting his defense whenever the offense gets the better of it.
"That's the way they want it," defensive tackle Warren Sapp said. "They keep stats. We'll walk into lunch today and (Gruden) will tell (Derrick) Brooks what the third-down completion percentage on 7-on-7 was. I'll bet money that Brooks is going to turn to (Shelton) Quarles and Quarles is going to turn to (Dwayne) Rudd and it's going to filter through. So by the time we get back on the field at 3 o'clock today, they're going to be lathered up. It's way too competitive right now, but that's how you go about winning a world championship."
PAGE TURNER: Last season it was Pound the Rock. They are still chipping away at it, but Gruden might have adopted a new motto: Turn the Page.
Eager for the Bucs to put their Super Bowl season behind them, the catch phrase has taken on a life of its own.
"I don't know. I'm kind of perceived to be the motto man here, I guess," Gruden said. "I don't have a lot of slogans or cliches, but we've turned the page. We've got no wins and no losses just like everybody else. We realize that we've got to pay the rent and we've got a lot of work to do to get ourselves ready for the regular season"
REPEAT AFTER ME: Gruden has the same suite at the Celebration Hotel. Brad Johnson has the same roommate, Lynch. But this may be taking it too far.
Wanting to repeat everything from their Super Bowl season, special teams coach Richard Bisaccia and defensive assistant Raheem Morris commuted from Tampa to Celebration this week, the same way they reported to camp in 2002.
"I couldn't believe it," Sapp said. "I said, "You're crazy.' He's like, "We did everything the same, so we are trying to do it all the same."'
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