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DB Kelly happy to remain with Bucs

His one-year deal completes the signing of restricted free agents.

By ROGER MILLS

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 10, 2001


TAMPA -- At the start of the off-season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers faced the possibility of losing big in the secondary.

Safety Damien Robinson and cornerback Ronde Barber were unrestricted free agents, and nickel back Brian Kelly was a restricted free agent.

The Bucs lost Robinson to the Jets, but resigned Barber and on Wednesday locked in Kelly for one more season.

Kelly, 25, signed a one-year contract that will make him an unrestricted free agent at the end of the upcoming season. He is the last of the Bucs' restricted free agents to sign. Tuesday, the Bucs also signed backup running back Rabih Abdullah. In late April, the team signed center Todd Washington and defensive tackle James Cannida to similar one-year deals.

"I'm really happy to be back with the ballclub, a ballclub of championship level," said Kelly, who has been a fixture at One Buc Place since the end of last season. "We're definitely moving in the right direction and I'm excited to be a part of that."

A second-round pick in 1998 out of Southern California, Kelly has been a bit more than just a backup for the Bucs. In fact, he entered the 2000 season in a battle with Barber for the starting corner position opposite Donnie Abraham.

Last season, Kelly played in 64.4 percent of the team's defensive snaps, and had three of his career nine starts. He finished with 47 tackles, 1 interception, 2 fumble recoveries and 14 passes defensed. In the Bucs' 27-7 win over the Cowboys, Kelly's only interception was returned for his first career touchdown.

Kelly had his right knee scoped just before minicamp and sat out the three-day workout, but has returned to full speed. He said his knee feels fine and will be 100 percent for training camp.

"I can't think of a better place to be," he said.

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