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Gruden impressed with development

By ROGER MILLS
Published May 28, 2004

TAMPA - The Bucs wrapped up their third three-day session of offseason workouts Thursday and now have a few weeks off to rest.

Coach Jon Gruden said the team utilized the voluntary workouts to iron out kinks from last season and familiarize the new players with the system.

"It's a good turnout, and I'm impressed with what we're doing," Gruden said. "We're getting better."

And presumably healthier. By the time the squad meets in June for the final round of voluntary workouts, Gruden expects a number of players nursing injuries to be healed.

"We look forward to getting Joe Jurevicius back toward the middle part of June, and (offensive lineman) Derrick Deese should be ready to go when we get back at the end of June," Gruden said. "(Guard Matt) O'Dwyer is knocking on the door to being ready."

The full return of new linebacker Ian Gold, recovering from knee surgery, is eagerly awaited.

"He basically takes individual work," Gruden said. "He's getting close to being ready. We're going to be very sure. He's a warrior in the meeting room. He's the spitting image of what you want in a football player. He comes early, leaves late. He's a detail freak. It's a matter right now (of making sure) that the knee is 100 percent. It's very close."

THE SIMMS WATCH: Brad Johnson is clearly the starter, but second-year quarterback Chris Simms is making quite the push for consideration for No. 2.

The Bucs signed veteran Brian Griese in the offseason to ensure they have experience in the backup role, and he has not disappointed the coaching staff. But Gruden said Simms is making the competition intriguing.

"We didn't draft him to be a No. 2 or the No. 3," Gruden said. "We drafted him because at some point we think he can become a starter and hopefully a great player. So, we think he can be a lot more than a No. 2.

"The way he's feeling it now, the way he's throwing the ball right now is very encouraging for all of us. . . . . He's got a charismatic style that players play for, a lot of upside."

THE TRAIN IS CHURNING: No one is more grateful for the workouts than fullback Mike Alstott. The part-time running back has been using the time on the field to get his legs, wind and timing back.

Alstott missed the bulk of last season with a neck injury that required offseason surgery.

"I'm starting to feel it and see it better now," he said. "Maybe the last week and the first couple of days this week, I was trying to get the rust out and get back into the rhythm. I'm feeling good about it. But . . . until we put on the pads and do all the stuff, it's different. I feel comfortable that my body will hold up. We haven't been doing little easy exercises. . . . I feel 100 percent."

TAKING A DIFFERENT APPROACH: Jurevicius, who missed the bulk of last season after tearing a knee ligament in the second game, has been back on the field but is seeking alternate treatment out of town.

"(Trainer) Todd Toriscelli organized some stuff with another trainer-physician-type committee," Gruden said. "I don't know where Joe is, but he's somewhere. He's getting close, and based on (a) conversation we had (the other night) with him, with those people, things are going well."

[Last modified May 28, 2004, 01:00:27]

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