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Bucs may face Vick in South

By RICK STROUD and ROGER MILLS

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 22, 2001


TAMPA -- The Falcons' selection of quarterback Michael Vick after a blockbuster trade for the No. 1 pick will be felt in Tampa Bay for several years.

The Bucs are expected to move to the new NFL South in 2002. Owners vote on realignment next month. The Bucs, Falcons, Panthers and Saints would play twice a season.

"We thought about it yesterday when they made the trade. I'm sure we'll see him," Bucs coach Tony Dungy said of Vick.

But the Bucs are no strangers to playing elite NFL quarterbacks. In the NFC Central, they face the Packers' Brett Favre and the Vikings' Daunte Culpepper.

"It won't be much different than playing Culpepper twice," Dungy said. "We're just trading one for another. He's going to be an exciting player."

NO FALLEN COMRADE: Some may describe offensive tackle Kenyatta Walker's availability to the Bucs with the 14th pick as "a fall." But general manager Rick McKay saw it another way.

"Guys that fall, fall at a big level," McKay said. "He's not a guy that fell. I think most people would have said he was going to go any where from fourth to eighth. Okay, maybe he slipped a little bit, but (he did) not fall."

McKay said a number of circumstances could have led to Walker slipping. He said some teams may have focused on other players expecting Walker to be gone, and that sometimes teams "don't necessarily pay attention to some guys who have slipped."

McKay said need also played a role. For instance, the Bengals (No. 4) and Jaguars (No. 13) were considered likely to take offensive tackles. But the Bengals took Missouri defensive end Justin Smith and the Jaguars grabbed Georgia defensive tackle Marcus Stroud.

"We did think they would pick one of the two offensive linemen that most people had up there, in Walker or (Steve) Hutchinson," McKay said. "We're happy how it came out."

BROKEN-HEARTED: Hurricanes receiver Santana Moss was the No. 1 player rated in the draft by Dungy -- 9-year-old Eric.

Moss was selected 16th overall by the Jets coach Herman Edwards, the former Bucs defensive backs coach.

"I told Herm on Thursday that it's all Eric talked about all week was drafting Santana Moss," Dungy said. "They were two picks ahead of us and I told Herm, "I hear you like Santana Moss and you'll break Eric's heart if you take him.' He just laughed."

HARD LINE: It always has been Dungy's philosophy to make players earn their starting position in training camp, so he's unlikely to name Walker the opening day starter at left tackle.

This, of course, helps McKay in ironing out Walker's contract.

"From a negotiation standpoint, I will say that I doubt he will dress this year," McKay joked. "We'll wait and see. If he can crack the lineup in special teams, then he'll be out there."

BROKEN WEBB: Drafting Walker may prevent the Bucs from signing Dolphins unrestricted free agent Richmond Webb.

"From a salary cap perspective, we're at the end," McKay said. "We're not in a position at this time to sign veterans, beyond low salary positions."

GET IT RIGHT: The NFL is renowned for its exhaustive background checks but someone dropped the ball. In his official NFL bio, Walker's hometown is listed as Mims, Fla. Walker is from Meridian, Miss.

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