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Rison's tryout a passing fancy

RICK STROUD
Published August 31, 2003

TAMPA - Andre Rison appeared to be a little pudgy when he worked out for the Bucs Tuesday, his first action in the NFL since January of 2001.

Will "Bad Moon" Rison soon be playing for the world champions? Fat chance.

Bucs coach Jon Gruden granted Rison a workout out of loyalty to his former Raiders receiver.

The 10-minute tryout was attended by most of the coaching staff and front office personnel. But noticeably absent was general manager Rich McKay.

In fact, it was under McKay's insistence that Rison be ushered out of the training facility without talking to the media.

This is not the first time that Gruden and McKay have clashed over a personnel decision and it certainly won't be the last.

Gruden wanted to bring Rison in last season, but the former Pro Bowler was still suspended for repeatedly violating the league's substance-abuse policy. When the NFL recently cleared Rison to play, the Bucs coach saw an opportunity to help a former player.

Inviting Rison, one of the league's most prolific receivers with 743 career receptions for 10,205 yards and 84 touchdowns, served another purpose for Gruden.

Dissatisfied with the performance of some of his receivers, he wanted to shake up players competing for the fifth and final spot behind Keyshawn Johnson, Keenan McCardell, Joe Jurevicius and Karl Williams.

That's typical of Gruden.

Even though players like Reggie Barlow, Charles Lee and rookie Fabian Davis were giving great effort, Gruden had no trouble giving them extra motivation two days before the final preseason game against the Texans. All three players performed well.

Lee (three catches for 43 yards) and Barlow (three for 27 yards, one rush for 7 yards) helped the Bucs to a 27-0 first-half lead. Davis caught two passes for 11 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown.

Gruden has a tough decision to make by today's 4 p.m. deadline to reach the 53-man roster limit.

The guess here is Barlow, who also played for Gruden with the Raiders, will be kept because he is a better special-teams player than Lee. Davis would be the primary candidate to be signed to the practice squad if he clears waivers.

Where does that leave the 36-year-old Rison? Waiting by the telephone.

Even if Gruden is inclined to sign the 12-year veteran, McKay definitely is not.

This isn't an issue that should irritate Gruden, like the trade of Saints tackle Kyle Turley to the Rams or Emmitt Smith signing with the Cardinals.

Rison may have caught the ball well in the brief workout, but Gruden knows he is nowhere close to being in playing shape.

And no matter how emotionally attached Gruden is to his former players, he will listen to reason. And McKay has been the voice of reason in personnel decisions.

Not signing Rison immediately will benefit the Bucs for another reason.

Because Rison has 10 years or more in the NFL, the Bucs would have to guarantee his salary if he signed before the Sept. 8 opener against at Philadelphia.

But if the Bucs were to wait until after the Eagles game, Rison's contract would be pro-rated, meaning he could be cut without any damage to the salary cap.

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