tampabay.com

Kennedy shows little in workout

By STEPHEN F. HOLDER and JOANNE KORTH
Published August 25, 2006


TAMPA - Coach Jon Gruden has a propensity for bringing back former players, but even Gruden seems unwilling to pull the trigger on Lincoln Kennedy.

The former Pro Bowl offen-sive tackle, whose last NFL action came in 2003, worked out Thursday at the Bucs' training facility - his latest effort to make a comeback.

But much like his previous efforts in recent weeks, this attempt was met with a yawn. Kennedy, 6 feet 6, weighed 385 pounds and was out of shape, and the whole thing amounted to little more than a favor for an old friend.

"He called and wanted us to work him out, so that's what we're doing," Gruden said. "I take care of friends. It's a nice thing to do."

Kennedy, 35, worked last season as an analyst for the NFL Network and hasn't been on a roster since the 2004 preseason. But during his playing days he was a formidable tackle, making the Pro Bowl in 2001 and 2002 with Oakland.

His tenure there coincided with Gruden, who coached the Raiders from 1998 to 2001.

"It kind of came as a surprise to me, honestly, but we take everything seriously when players call, especially players who call and have played really good in the league," Gruden said.

But the coach was quick to establish the fact that the Bucs were simply taking a peek.

"I'm not going to raise speculation other than we're looking into his situation," Gruden said.

Kennedy talked his way into invites from the Cowboys and Redskins this month, but those visits never got any further than the physical. He failed both and actual workouts never commenced.

Thursday's workout was observed by general manager Bruce Allen, offensive line coach Bill Muir and personnel executive Doug Williams, among others. Gruden did not take part but planned to watch tape of the session. In most cases, when the team has a genuine interest in a player, Gruden makes it a point to observe the workout.

Kennedy likely won't be the last tackle to visit. The team is thin at the position with backup Torrin Tucker still out with a knee injury and former third-round pick Chris Colmer out of football for the foreseeable future with a nerve condition.

"We worked out a couple of guys last week and everybody has our phone number and knows that we would be interested in looking into any tackle situation, given our present injury situation," Gruden said.

RUNNING IN PLACE: Running back Derek Watson hopes to make his preseason debut Saturday against the Jaguars, but he will be a game-time decision because of a nagging left ankle injury.

Fighting for a job in a crowded backfield, Watson's worst fear is that people question his desire.

"This is my season for a guy in my position," said Watson, 25. "Preseason is my time of the year to shine. Not being able to play is frustrating. It's the type of injury that takes time, and the more time passes, the more I miss.

"I just don't want anybody to question my courage as far as playing football. I want to be out there playing so bad."

The Bucs like Watson's combination of size (6-0, 212) and speed. He spent most of 2005 on the practice squad before being promoted to the 53-man roster in late November. After sitting out the team's first two preseason games, Watson knows the sideline is the worst place to be.

"You have to move pretty fast around here," said Watson, who tried to go full speed at practice Wednesday and aggravated the injury.

"I just hope they don't get impatient with me and see I have a nagging injury that I can't do too much about it right now. Hopefully they keep me around and see how everything works out once I get healthy."

PHINISEE OUT: Rookie cornerback Justin Phinisee said he won't play Saturday because of a sore groin, but he hopes to regain his health and return Aug. 31 against Houston.

Phinisee is one of several late-round picks battling to make the roster. He has tried to expand his role by becoming a mainstay on special teams, where the Bucs have used him on most units and to return occasional punts during the preseason.