By ROGER MILLS and RICK STROUD
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 28, 2001
TAMPA -- Rookie left tackle Kenyatta Walker, the No. 14 overall pick in the draft, began his Bucs career facing free-agent acquisition Simeon Rice on the first seven-on-seven drill in mini-camp at Once Buc Place.
On the first play, he jumped before the snap.
Welcome to the NFL.
"Yeah, I did (jump)," Walker said sheepishly. "I would rather mess up all day in practice. It's learning the snap and the snap is a lot different to when I was at Florida and there are different quarterbacks back there as well."
Walker, the former right tackle for the Gators who is expected to start for a long time at left tackle, admits he has a long way to go. To ensure no time is wasted, Walker started the very first snap of the very first drill.
"Let's get it rolling," he said. "The quicker I'm in there, the quicker I'll learn, the quicker everybody will be happy.
"I feel welcome, but I also know I have to prove myself and I've got to gain respect from the older guys. It helps that I have (veteran left guard) Randall (McDaniel) right beside me. (He's) a veteran who's going to look after me."
TIPPING THE SCALES: While defensive tackle Warren Sapp and quarterback Shaun King look like they have shed quite a few pounds this off-season, backup quarterback Ryan Leaf seemed a bit heavy around the midsection.
The 6-foot-5 Leaf said he weighs about 260 pounds.
"No, I'm not concerned about anybody's weight at this time," coach Tony Dungy said. "Our training staff and (strength and conditioning coach) Mark Asanovich do a great job of getting guys ready."
Said Leaf: "My last year in college I was about 255, I kind of like that. From what I hear, I'll drop about 30 (pounds) down here (in the heat)."
BACK IN THE FRAY: With linebacker Derrick Brooks excused from the afternoon practice for personal reasons, former starter Jeff Gooch worked with the first unit in scrimmage situations. That's quite a turn of events, considering the Bucs tried to trade Gooch to St. Louis in the off-season only to have to deal rescinded because Gooch failed his physical.
"It's been kind of wild and crazy but things tend to work their way around and work out," said Gooch, who had to have bone spurs removed from his pelvic bone and has almost completed his rehab. "You've got to be a professional about things. There's good and bad, bitter and sweet. I'm definitely happy to be here. This is where I started."
ALL IN THE FAMILY: The Bucs invited four players to try out -- cornerback Jermaine Francis, running back Vannez Gooch, tight end/linebacker Joe Zalenka and tight end John Allred. Allred, an ex-Bear, is the brother of John Lynch's wife, Linda. "(Lynch) did a little bit of lobbying," Dungy said. "John Allred is obviously a guy we know a lot about and we had rated highly coming out of school. But I was getting a hard sales job nonetheless."
ETC.: Free safety Dexter Jackson is excused today. He is graduating from Florida State with a degree in Human and Family Science. ... Lynch (left shoulder) did not participate in drills but is expected to be ready for training camp. ... Ex-Gator Gooch sprained his left shoulder. Cornerback Anthony Midget separated his right shoulder. Running back Jeff Chaney (right knee) did not practice.