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Bucs brass happy with Williams decision

Former Plant High star Mike Williams left Southern Cal and could be among the top seven players selected.

By RICK STROUD
Published February 22, 2004

INDIANAPOLIS - The Bucs are giddy about the news that Southern Cal receiver Mike Williams has opted to forgo the final two years of college to enter the NFL draft.

The addition of Williams not only makes an already exceptional receiving class stronger. But since the former Plant High star could go in the top seven picks, according to pro scouting director Mark Dominic, it will push good players down another spot in the draft.

And that's good for the Bucs, who choose 15th.

"Mike Williams is a heck of a player," Bucs coach Jon Gruden said. "We're going to have to do our homework on him. There's some very interesting prospects. The receivers in this draft are big, physical guys. There's an awful lot of good ones.

"I don't really like to get into comparisons, but there's a lot of good players there."

Gruden began interviewing potential draft picks Friday night at the scouting combine. With more players opting not to work out, the interviews and medical examines have become the biggest value of the combine.

"You meet the players, obviously. You want to learn as much as you can about them," Gruden said. "Do you like football? Do you love football? Do you want to be great? And you want to know a little bit about where they come from, their family life, what turns them on, what turns them off. You're trying to put together a team that's united, great chemistry and you want players that fit. Certainly, this process helps you determine some of that.

"Some of the interviews that you have, time is a problem. Every team in the league wants to have the same amount of time to interview a player. Some of their answers might sound a little scripted. But it's just a great feeling to shake a guy's hand and get to know him and this impression is an important one as far as I'm concerned and we'll judge for ourselves what we think."

ALL ABOARD: Running back Mike Alstott's recovery from surgery to repair a herniated disk is proceeding well, Gruden said.

"Alstott has been my workout partner at 6 o'clock for the past six weeks," Gruden said. "We expect the A-Train to be taking off at the right time. He's had an injury and a surgical procedure.

"But if he feels he can play and is cleared to play medically, we expect great things again from him."

BIG LETDOWN: Don't be surprised if the start of the free-agent signing period in 10 days begins with a thud.

"Everyone gets so excited for March 3, March 3, March 3," general manager Bruce Allen said. "There'll be five or six real big deals go down within 48 hours.

"And then there's a lull and there's some really good football players still available and their phone doesn't ring. And that second week feels like forever. It's quite an emotional time for a player."

[Last modified February 22, 2004, 01:45:26]

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