By ROGER MILLS and RICK STROUD
Published September 10, 2004
TAMPA - He entered training camp hoping to erase some of last season's problems. But things did not go quite as planned for kicker Martin Gramatica, who hit 6 of 10 field goals during the preseason.
Days from beginning his sixth NFL season, Gramatica is determined to break out of his funk.
"I feel really good," said Gramatica, who met with reporters for the first time since the Houston game eight days ago. "We watched film this morning with (special teams) coach (Rich) Bisaccia, and I made most of the kicks yesterday and they all looked different.
"Mechanically, there's nothing I can fix or change because every kick looks different. ... Basically, I'm hitting the ball pretty solid, but they're not going straight. The key is to get them going straight."
That was part of the problem last season, when Gramatica converted a career-low 61.5 percent of his field-goal attempts (16-of-26). Despite the 60 percent accuracy rate in the preseason, Gramatica said he would not allow his current form to get to him emotionally.
"I guess last year was a good lesson," he said. "To have a horrible year like last year, I can use that to learn from my mistakes and from the things that could go wrong, or have gone wrong in the preseason. But I have to black out the misses and come back and hit the next one. That's the biggest thing, not thinking about it too much."
Gramatica said he has received tremendous support from teammates and coaches.
"It shows the type of guys we have here, the type of teammates and coaches," Gramatica said. "They believe in me more than I do. I thank all of them for it."
Gramatica said while the preseason miscues don't count, he still must feel responsible for them, and regaining his confidence might be the first step toward ensuring they don't occur in the regular season.
"Confidence is huge. I think that's 99 percent of it," he said. "There are a million guys who can kick the ball 60 yards in the back yard and in games they can't. You have to be able to control (your confidence), and that's what I haven't been doing. So, hopefully, I can get back to doing it.
"I don't think I need one certain kick to prove (anything). I need to be consistent all year, that's the key. In a job like mine, one or two kicks is not going to make or break a season. You have to make sure you're consistent all season."
LEE RELEASED, RE-SIGNED: In a move that saved the team about $85,000 in salary-cap room, the Bucs released receiver Charles Lee late Wednesday and re-signed him immediately. Lee did not miss any practice time.
Lee, a five-year veteran, was in the second year of a two-year deal and was due to make $535,000 this year, agent Rich De Luca said. Under the terms of his first deal, the Bucs were on the books for $535,000 in salary-cap money.
By signing a new one-year deal, for the same amount, Lee counts $450,000 on the salary cap.
"We did it out of the goodness of our heart," De Luca said. "It's not that unusual a deal. We saved them some salary-cap money, no harm, no foul."
De Luca said Lee's contract reads the same and pays the same but will count for less on the cap because he is now a vested player. Lee also did not have to clear waivers because he has played more than four seasons.
The money saved could be used to sign a free agent or pay a practice-squad player, who makes $5,000 a week for the 17 weeks of the season.
BAD TASTE? Considering the damage caused by Hurricanes Charley and Frances, the introduction to the team's Web site, www.buccaneers.com might seem inappropriate.
It depicts satellite images of Charley and Frances making landfall in Florida. Then it flashes to a graphic of a hurricane in the eye of Derrick Brooks with the following caption: "This Sunday, the Bucs bring the devastation to Washington, D.C."
FAVORITISM: Gruden said he didn't plan to watch the opening game of the season Thursday between the Colts and Patriots. But he did note that unlike the Bucs' defense of their Super Bowl title, New England opens at home. Tampa Bay began the season at Philadelphia last year.
"It's opening night and I think the Patriots are opening at home this year, aren't they?" Gruden said. "Did they go to Tokyo, too?"
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I just hope Chuck Noll and Bill Walsh don't come out of retirement, to be honest with you." - Gruden, who faces Redskins coach Joe Gibbs.
INJURIES: Guard Sean Mahan did not practice because of a virus. He is probable.