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QB's advice: no pointing of fingers

Times Staff Writers
Published December 5, 2003

TAMPA - Though mathematically still in the race for a playoff spot, the Bucs face a tall order and need a few teams in front of them to lose. That said, veteran quarterback Brad Johnson said players must take care of themselves and not worry about other teams and different scenarios.

"The big thing now is not to point fingers," Johnson said. "Take care of yourself. For me, as quarterback, (I have) to make good reads and good throws, end of story. That's what I talked about going into last Super Bowl, that's what I'm talking about right now. The story doesn't change. Take care of the ball, give yourself a chance to win another game."

MOVING ON UP: He spent training camp with the Bucs only to be released before the start of the season and was re-signed to the practice squad on Oct. 9. Since then, cornerback Ronyell Whitaker has been a hardworking staple at One Buc Place.

Now, with season-ending injuries to Brian Kelly and Tim Wansley, Whitaker has been moved up to the 53-man roster and could play Sunday. Those seven weeks on the practice squad should help.

"It helps a great deal," Whitaker said. "Every day I was on the practice squad I came in like I was going to suit up for the game. That's the only way I could help myself as far as improving. As far as coming up to game time, it shouldn't be any different. You prepare so that if the lights come on you're ready to go."

Of course, there is one difference between being on the practice squad or the regular roster.

"Yeah, the money," Whitaker said, smiling. "But other than that, I don't think there's (much of a difference). As far as myself, I play every play the same."

SPEED HELPS: With the season-ending injury to Joe Jurevicius and the deactivation of Keyshawn Johnson, the Bucs could give recently signed receiver Marvin "Snoop" Minnis some playing time, once he learns the plays.

Known for his speed and game-breaking ability, Minnis said he'll relish the chance to show he still can run.

"I'm anxious to get back out here," he said. "I haven't been out of football since I was seven years old. I love the game. It was hurting me to be away from the game. But now I'm back. I know I'm a playmaker. I love this game and I have a lot of ability when I take advantage of it."

Coach Jon Gruden said the former FSU star needs a crash course.

"Snoop's going to learn our plays, and the sooner the better," Gruden said. "We like his speed and quickness and he loves football. ... He's got some things to learn and obviously he's been out of football here for awhile. We'll get to know him again and hopefully bring him up to speed where he can contribute."

NO CIGAR: The Bucs were among 10 teams to put in a waiver claim on ex-Cowboys defensive back Derek Ross. He was awarded to the Falcons by virtue of having the poorest record (2-10) among teams that sought him.

Ross, 23, a third-round pick from Ohio State in 2002, was cut by Cowboys coach Bill Parcells after fumbling two kickoffs in their Thanksgiving Day loss to Miami.

The Bucs are looking for cornerback help with the loss of Kelly and Wansley.

INJURY REPORT: Receiver Keenan McCardell (left hip sprain) and defensive end Simeon Rice (left elbow sprain) are probable. McCardell was limited to Thursday's walk-through while Rice practiced only without pads, Gruden said.

- ROGER MILLS, RICK STROUD and JOANNE KORTH

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