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Workouts open in a stadium setting

ROGER MILLS
Published May 26, 2004

TAMPA - To begin the third round of offseason workouts, the Bucs piled all 80-plus players into a convoy of buses Tuesday and conducted practice at Raymond James Stadium. The shift of practice venue was accompanied by as much of a game-day assimilation as possible, minus the crowd. Even the cannon balls were fired.

"We had the regular red-zone drills that we usually do," cornerback Brian Kelly said. "During the offseason, things get comfortable and redundant, so this had a different theme. We got the music going through our stretching routine, our pregame routine, cannons, everything."

Receiver Charles Lee said the change of venue may also have had a motivational effect on the team.

"We have a bunch of new guys so it was good to have a transition to get them acclimated to playing in the stadium," Lee said. "Besides, we just didn't play well enough at home last year. So we have to get a feel for it and let the guys know that this is our homefield and we've got to win here."

The experience was worthwhile for some of the 20-plus free agents and draft picks, some of whom have never played at the stadium.

"That place is a show piece, no question about it," said guard Matt Stinchcomb, who played an Outback Bowl at the former Houlihan's Stadium. "With the boat and those cannons. They shot them off a couple of times today and it caught us off guard."

STILL NO KEENAN: Veteran receiver Keenan McCardell was again a no-show for the workouts and it doesn't appear he will attend today or any.

McCardell, who had 84 catches for 1,174 yards and eight touchdowns last season, is due to make $2.5-million this year, and $2.75-million next, the final year of his contract.

The 34-year-old is seeking a new contract and those negotiations are ongoing.

"We're comfortable (with the situation)," general manager Bruce Allen said. "It's a volunteer camp and he's volunteered not to be here. That's the nature of the game right now."

McCardell's agent Gary Uberstine would not comment on the negotiations.

Since the workouts are voluntary, the team can not penalize McCardell for his absence. However, the Bucs have a mandatory three-day minicamp scheduled for the end of June and players who miss that minicamp are subject to discipline.

"According to the collective bargaining agreement, players can be fined for missing any mandatory meeting or camp," Allen said.

WALLS IN THE HOUSE: The Bucs have had an eye on veteran tight end Wesley Walls for quite some time and brought him in for a workout.

"He looked fine," Allen said. "He was productive for the Packers last year, and productive in the playoffs for the Packers. We're just looking at players. We've worked out over a dozen players over the last few weeks and we'll continue to do that, and look for ways to update the roster."

Walls, 38, has played 15 seasons with the Packers, 49ers, Saints and Panthers. Last year with Green Bay, he had 20 catches for 222 yards and one touchdown in the regular season.

"As we see players, we might have to make roster moves in order to sign players," Allen said. "But usually, it'll happen right before camp because we want to give every player a chance to make the football team."

PITTMAN'S BACK: Also working out was running back Michael Pittman, who recently completed a two-week sentence in an Arizona jail after pleading guilty to a felony charge of endangerment. Now, the Bucs must wait to see what the league has in store.

"I don't know if the page has been turned yet with Michael," Allen said. "The league and Michael still have to come to some type of resolution as to what the discipline will be."

Pittman is expected to receive a multigame suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy but Allen said there is no timetable for when the league will rule.

"First of all, the player has his rights to due process with the league as well," Allen said. "I've seen in the past where that usually comes down at some point in training camp. I don't think there is a specific timetable for the commissioner to hand out discipline. It's done on a case by case business."

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