tampabay.com

Personnel director to leave after 18 years

By JOANNE KORTH and RICK STROUD
Published May 17, 2006


TAMPA - Director of player personnel Ruston Webster, who played an important role in the Bucs' past five drafts, is leaving after 18 years with the franchise to work in the Seahawks front office, according to ESPN.

Webster's title is yet to be determined, but he likely will oversee player personnel for the reigning NFC champions.

Webster will be reunited with long-time friend and former Tampa Bay co-worker Tim Ruskell, who became Seattle's president of football operations in 2005. The two worked together for 16 years in Tampa.

Webster also interviewed in St. Louis.

Webster was promoted to Bucs director of player personnel in 2005, working directly with general manager Bruce Allen and overseeing the college and pro scouting departments. Prior to that, he spent four years as director of college scouting.

He began his NFL career in 1988 as a Bucs regional scout. From 1989-91 he was director of pro personnel. In 1992 he returned to scouting.

LOSING FOR GAIN: Guard Toniu Fonoti is hoping to get his career back on track with the Bucs.

And his weight down.

Fonoti, injured most of 2005 while playing at nearly 400 pounds, said Tuesday during a voluntary workout at One Buc Place that he is close to his goal of 370.

He is officially listed at 350.

If Fonoti returns to the form he showed early in his career as a 2002 second-round draft pick in San Diego - he was a Sports Illustrated first-team All-Pro in 2004 - he could reshape the Bucs offensive line.

"They want a little beef, but they also want hard-nosed football players," said Fonoti, born in American Samoa. "I'm going to try to bring that and make this offensive line more fierce."

Fonoti is a low-risk investment who could pay huge dividends. Signed by Tampa Bay to a one-year contract worth $500,000, he hopes to revive his once promising career.

"He's a large man," center John Wade said. "He's probably the biggest man I've ever seen in person. I know he's had a couple injuries, but he moves pretty well. I know he can play and be an asset to our football team."

Last season, Fonoti suffered a severely strained groin in his only appearance with the Vikings in November and was put on injured reserve. He was out of shape and nursing a broken hand when he arrived in Minnesota in a midseason trade from San Diego.

After starting 14 games as a rookie, he missed all of 2003 with a foot injury.

ALMOST PERFECT: Cornerback Brian Kelly was the only starter missing from Tuesday's voluntary session, the first at which veterans and rookies worked together. Kelly was attending to a family matter, according to a spokesman for Kelly's agent.

Also absent were a handful of rookies who, because of an agreement between the NFL and NCAA, cannot join their new teams until their colleges hold graduation ceremonies.

More than 80 players participated.