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Barber's intentions unknown
By RICK STROUD
Published April 3, 2005
TAMPA - The Bucs begin their first week of voluntary organized team activities Tuesday, a euphemism for full-squad workouts.
The most significant issue will be the roll call.
Almost certain not to show is offensive tackle Todd Steussie, who has not been seen or heard from since the 60 Minutes Wednesday report linking him to steroid prescriptions.
But the player almost everybody at One Buc Place is curious about is Ronde Barber.
The All-Pro is grossly underpaid, ranking 27th among cornerbacks when the free-agent signing period began at an average salary of $3-million. Barber and his agent have approached the Bucs about an increase, but there has been no dialogue recently.
Bucs officials sounded uncertain about his appearance, mentioning he recently was in New York training with his brother, Giants running back Tiki Barber.
A year ago, receiver Keenan McCardell, believing he deserved a pay increase, was a no-show. The excuse he gave was a scheduling conflict. But it soon became apparent that McCardell was staging his own demonstration, which led to a training camp holdout and Oct.19 trade to the Chargers.
Don't expect Barber to handle his dissatisfaction in similar fashion. He won't say a negative word about the organization. Attempts to reach Barber and his agent were unsuccessful. But nobody would be surprised if he did not report on time.
O-LINE: The Bucs' biggest weakness the past two seasons has been the offensive line. But with little money for free agents, the team must rely on the development of youngsters.
"We have work to do, and we're going to do all we can to bring (guard) Jeb Terry along, a guy we like," coach Jon Gruden said. "(Tackle) Anthony Davis is another young guy we think is on the cusp of being a competitor there. Sean Mahan got to play, so we've got two centers that have made calls in games.
"(Tackle Kenyatta Walker) did some good things. We'll see. We have a long way to go until training camp, but it'll be an area again we'll try to improve."
WAITING GAME: Quarterback Chris Simms doesn't have to look far for a lesson in patience. His father, Giants quarterback Phil Simms, faced some adversity early in his career.
"A lot of quarterbacks have gone through that in their career," Simms said. "He started a lot of games his rookie year, and then he had injuries to deal with the (next three) years.
"I just realized the way this league is. Last year going into Week 1, I was second string. Brian ( Griese) was third string. And by the season's end, Brian was the star of our team and one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL."
MORE QB NEWS: Akili Smith, signed in February, was 6-of-11 for 68 yards, a touchdown and an interception for Frankfurt in its NFL Europe opener Saturday. Frankfurt, which lost 30-7 to Berlin, had the ball for only 16:25 and had 134 yards of offense.
MORE CUTS TO COME?: Gruden indicated the Bucs are likely to release some players after June1, when the effect on the salary cap diminishes. Steussie would seem to be a candidate. But cutting Steussie might cost the Bucs more against the salary cap than his $2-million salary because of the accelerated signing bonus.
Running back Charlie Garner also could be cut, depending on how well his rehab from a torn patellar tendon is progressing.
But Walker's name keeps popping up because his salary this season is $2.5-million. One potential replacement is Scott Gragg, 33, who was told not to report for 49ers minicamp this weekend.