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Assistant Art Valero heads to the Rams, but not before some critical comments.
By RICK STROUD, Times Staff Writer
Published January 12, 2008
[Bill Serne | Times (2006)]
TAMPA - Art Valero has a new start and a new job as the assistant head coach for the St. Louis Rams.
One of the most popular assistants among Bucs players for six seasons, Valero made it clear Friday he butted horns with coach Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay.
"I feel like I'm in a better place, like they say when somebody dies," Valero said. "Only feel like I've been reborn."
His position with the Rams is undetermined but offensive line and running backs or tight ends remains a possibility. He said Friday that he still could also be named offensive coordinator under coach Scott Linehan.
"It's nice to work for someone that you trust and you know when he tells you something, he means it," Valero said of Linehan. "I didn't have to roll my eyes and wonder if it would change by the time he got down the hall."
Linehan fired offensive line coach Paul Boudreau and took the title of offensive coordinator from Greg Olson, who could stay in another capacity.
Valero, 49, had always been part of Gruden's staff in Tampa Bay, coaching tight ends (2002-03) and running backs (2004-05) then becoming assistant head coach (2006-07).
But he credited the players - not Gruden - for most of the Bucs' success.
"First of all, when coach (Tony) Dungy left Tampa Bay, he left a lot of great character on that team," Valero said. "The thing I will miss the most is the players and not only the ones I got to work with. There's a lot of great people in that locker room and all they want to do is win and all they wanted was to be led."
Valero helped running back Cadillac Williams win rookie of the year honors in 2005 when the first-round pick from Auburn rushed for 1,178 yards. After Williams and Michael Pittman were injured this season, he helped seldom-used Earnest Graham become a feature back and rush for 898 yards and 10 touchdowns. The rushing attack ranked 11th, the highest ever in Tampa Bay under Gruden.
But Valero clearly disagreed with Gruden's decision to rest players the final two games of the regular season.
The Bucs lost 24-14 to the Giants on Sunday in an NFC wild-card game, their second home playoff loss in three years.
"We have the healthiest team no longer playing in the playoffs," Valero said.
Linehan and Valero twice worked together - at Louisville (1998-2001) when Valero was offensive line coach and Linehan was the offensive coordinator, and in the early '90s they were on the same staff at Idaho.
"I'll miss the players and I tried to get close to those guys in the locker room," Valero said. "Not just the superstars, but the Kalvin Pearsons, who they tried to cut, and the Earnest Grahams, who they cut several times. The team had outstanding leaders - Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber. I'll miss them as people, not just players.
"What this team was about is what you saw in the preseason. They won because of their camaraderie. When you saw Paris Warren go down in preseason and the entire team left the bench to wish him well, I've never seen anything like that. That's what this team was about."
[Last modified January 12, 2008, 01:44:54]