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Glory gone, a quiet comeback
Receiver David Boston is taking a second shot at resurrecting his career with the Bucs.
By JOANNE KORTH
Published August 6, 2007
[Bill Serne | Times]
CaptionDavid Boston catches a Chris Simms pass during drills.
LAKE BUENA VISTA - There were more than 150 receivers in the NFL last season.
David Boston wasn't one of them.
So, this time around in Bucs training camp, there is no buzz. No anticipation. Mostly, there is skepticism. Another NFL year has gone by without Boston, the former first-round pick and one-time Pro Bowl starter whose career was derailed by suspensions and knee injuries.
It has been nearly two years since Boston caught a pass that counted. It has been more than three years since he caught one that mattered.
How long is too long?
"I haven't made any big plays or done anything in three years," said Boston, who turns 29 this month. "But I played the first five years and I'm trying to pick up where I left off. It's not easy."
Boston is not the only veteran trying to rekindle a career most assumed was over. Running back Priest Holmes is in Chiefs camp after injuring his neck in 2005. Quarterback Tim Couch, out of the league the past three years because of shoulder problems, is a former No. 1 overall pick competing for the No. 3 job in Jacksonville.
Each would be a remarkable comeback.
Boston has a chance.
"People have totally forgotten about him, don't even know he's alive," Bucs coach Jon Gruden said. "If he can come back, it will be one hell of a story. I tip my hat to him. He's been through a lot."
Drafted by Arizona eighth overall out of Ohio State in 1999, Boston was a force in 2001. He caught 98 passes for 1,598 yards and eight touchdowns - all career highs - and was a Pro Bowl starter.
Then, his career unraveled.
A free agent after 2003, Boston signed a seven-year, $53-million contract with San Diego. Playing at nearly 260 pounds, he never fit in with the Chargers, was suspended one game for behavior detrimental to the team and was traded to Miami.
Before 2004, Boston tested positive for a banned substance and was suspended for four games, and tore the patellar tendon in his knee and missed the entire season.
The next year, Boston sustained another knee injury and the Dolphins released him.
In 2006, Boston turned up in Bucs camp and Gruden raved about a 6-foot-2, 230-pound receiver with speed to go deep. But Boston was released the day before the opener, when injuries forced the team to sign an offensive lineman.
Boston had a few workouts, but no offers.
At 28, he was out of the league.
"I didn't really feel like the league was giving up on me, but it was a wake-up call that I needed to hurry up and get myself back together and get healthy to compete again," said Boston, who has caught four passes the past three seasons. "I had a long talk with my family and the trainers I work out with. I felt I needed to get myself as healthy as I could before the next offseason. Hopefully I'd have an opportunity."
Now Boston is looking big and quick. He is running the double moves, getting out of his breaks quicker and catching the ball with authority.
This time, he's healthy.
"Last year, I only practiced three or four times a week and I was trying to play the recovery game from practice to practice. I wasn't quite ready," Boston said. "This year, I'm able to recover from the morning practice to the afternoon practice and keep my explosiveness."
Cornerback Ronde Barber sees the difference.
"Last year, he didn't look like the David Boston that everybody remembers from his years at Ohio State and his first couple years in the league," Barber said. "He couldn't run. He wasn't explosive. But I noticed in the offseason that he was showing it again, and he's showing it now. Barring anything unforeseen, I can't imagine him not exploding back."
Even after all this time?
"Not playing in the league hurts you," Barber said, "but I think he's got enough talent to overcome that."