Boston's status still unclear
After the reclamation project's six-catch night, coach Jon Gruden offers no assurances that the veteran receiver will make the final roster when it is announced Saturday.
By STEPHEN F. HOLDER
Published September 1, 2006
HOUSTON - It wasn't exactly an affirmative answer, and frankly, it was hard to tell what exactly it was.
Asked if receiver David Boston will be on the final roster come Saturday, Bucs coach Jon Gruden gave a head-scratching response.
"I'm not going to say anything other than he's in my heart and in my prayers every night," Gruden said.
"I like Boston. I like guys who have a history of being great. (The media) say I like veteran players. Any idiot can like guys who can play and have played great in this league because it's hard to do, man."
So, even after Boston, the team's offseason reclamation project, caught six passes for 77 yards in Tampa Bay's preseason finale, it was unclear what his status is with final cuts looming Saturday.
Though Boston showed signs that he could be the player he once was, which is to say a dominant, physical receiver, he didn't show that until the final preseason game when his opponents were second- and third-string defenders.
Still, it was encouraging and tantalizing for the team to see Boston going over the middle and taking on tacklers, and to see him stretching the defense as a downfield threat.
And now, the final hours until the roster deadline is going to require the Bucs brass to sort through the possibilities in the receiving corps to see what best fits this team.
Not to be forgotten are Edell Shepherd and Paris Warren, who have enjoyed productive preseasons. Even for Boston, it is hard to feel comfortable about his status.
"I'm holding my breath," Boston said.
"I don't know. It's the NFL, and there's a lot of moves to be made. I just go out there and try to do the best job I can to let the coaches evaluate."
Boston, in particular, needed this performance as much as any receiver.
He had only one catch in the previous three games, and the extent of his success was drawing consecutive pass-interference calls against Jacksonville on Saturday.
"I hadn't really done anything in the other preseason games, so it was good for me to go out there and compete again," Boston said.
In fact, Boston hadn't played this much football in a long time, playing in just five games for the Dolphins last season before being placed on injured reserve.
"Here's a guy who has caught six passes tonight, and it's really the first time David Boston has played that much football in a long time," Gruden said.
"It's a credit to him and a real credit to Richard Mann, our receivers coach, who has pushed him and stimulated him and worked with him to try to fight through the dark moments."
But those are in his past, Boston believes.
He said he is pain-free despite knee serious injuries in consecutive seasons.
"I don't have any pain," he said.
"I haven't had any pain since midway through the offseason."
Gruden makes no assurances, but he is impressed with Boston, whatever his ultimate fate.
"There were some real dark moments the last couple years for this guy. I'm thrilled he had a chance to see the ball, make some plays, get back on the grass and do what he does. It was a big step for David tonight."
Whether the next step is to continue as a member of the Bucs remains to be seen.