By ROGER MILLS, RICK STROUD
Published August 1, 2004
LAKE BUENA VISTA - When they signed him late in the offseason, the Bucs were cautious not to give the impression that linebacker Ian Gold, returning from last season's torn right ACL, was a lock to start as the strongside linebacker.
But after one day, that appears to be the case.
The former Bronco worked with the first-team defense for the bulk of practice Saturday and punctuated his arrival by intercepting a Brad Johnson pass and returning it for a touchdown.
Ryan Nece, last year's starter, played with the second unit.
"We're all out here to compete," Gold said. "To say that I have competed to the best of my ability, up to this point, will be a correct statement. It comes down to competing at a high level. Coaches make the decisions and I play."
Linebackers coach Joe Barry was hesitant to name Gold the opening-day starter but said the 25-year-old showed a lot.
"We have a firm belief here that you're never given a position, you have to earn it," Barry said. "Obviously, Ian ran with the (first team) in the morning but he might not run with them (in the afternoon sessions). He still has to come in and learn the system."
SICK BAY: Kenyatta Walker isn't the only one who couldn't stomach the start of training camp. Defensive end Simeon Rice, who reported to the Celebration Hotel Friday, was unable to practice due to a virus. Walker was placed on the active nonfootball injury list with a stomach ailment and is expected in camp Monday.
"Well, he's sick. He's sick, you know what I mean?" coach Jon Gruden said. "He'll be here when he can. I'd like to see all these guys practice, but there are times when Mother Nature's calling."
Also still missing was receiver Keenan McCardell (contract dispute) and safety Dwight Smith (personal reasons).
WHO'S NO. 2?: The son of a Super Bowl quarterback took most of the repetitions with the second-team offense. Need more clues? Okay, he's left-handed.
Chris Simms, the second-year pro, began training camp as the backup to Johnson. Free agent Brian Griese took most of his reps with the third team.
Gruden predicted, however, the competition for the No. 2 spot will go down to the final day of camp.
"No, it's a battle," Gruden said. "It's going to be a battle that's well-earned by someone. And they're not just battling for the No. 2 job their whole lives, either. They're going to compete to someday become the starter and they've got to perform at an unbelievably high rate to ever win that job because the Bull (Johnson) was looking sharp and very impressive today."
Simms and Griese share more than positions. Simms is the son of former Giants Super Bowl quarterback Phil Simms and Griese is the son of Dolphins Hall of Fame quarterback Bob Griese.
"We talk about it, but not as much as everybody thinks," Simms said of the similarities. "To us, they're just our dads."
CHART TOPPERS: Smith's absence created an opportunity for John Howell to work with the first-team defense. Though Smith is the projected starter at free safety, Howell plans to compete for the job.
"By no means are the jobs ever locked up until opening day of the season," the fifth-year pro said. "If we don't have a guy here at practice or a guy gets hurt, then the next guy in line has to step up and play and take advantage of the opportunity."
BUCS BITS: Gruden invited Bucs alumni to practice and lunch with the team. Cornerback Ricky Reynolds, linebacker Scot Brantleyand tackle Rob Taylor were among the former players attending.
"It's great," Gruden said. "We're proud of them. We've gone a long way to try and heighten the value of our alumni here. We're going to continue to build upon a lot of great Buccaneer players who have the laid the foundation for where we are now."
Gold and guard Cosey Coleman did not participate in the afternoon workout for precautionary reasons.