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Ahanotu still can't find the right team

By ROGER MILLS

© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 22, 2001


TAMPA -- When he was released in mid April, former Bucs defensive end Chidi Ahanotu said his career was not at an end.

And he still believes it.

But as NFL teams open training camps over the next few days, Ahanotu has not signed with a team and said he's not alarmed by the prospect of sitting out the season.

Ahanotu, who played his eight seasons in the NFL with the Bucs, said he has had discussions with several teams, gone on visits and taken physicals. But he has no plans to join a team just for a paycheck or for the sake of playing.

"I'm looking for the right fit, the right team, the right coaching staff and the right city," said Ahanotu, who has visited the Dolphins, Panthers and Jets. "What's holding me up is not a money situation but finding the right niche. At this point, I'm not in any rush."

A sixth-round pick in 1993, Ahanotu played in 113 games and is fifth on the Bucs all-time sack list with 31. Last season he had 50 tackles, two forced fumbles and 31/2 sacks.

Once labeled the team's franchise player, in 1999 Ahanotu signed a six-year, $30-million deal that included a $6.5-million signing bonus.

But the Bucs released Ahanotu this off-season, creating room to sign free-agent quarterback Brad Johnson and defensive end Simeon Rice.

At 30, he said he can afford to sit out a season waiting for the right spot.

"It's not like I need to get some big payday," he said. "I want to get a Super Bowl ring. The next contract I sign will probably be my last one so it's very important that it's a right fit. No one's going to remember you when you jump from team to team to team."

IT'S GONNA COST YOU: Jaguars running back Stacey Mack's arrest in a prostitution sting could mean his release. Police say Mack offered an undercover police officer $15 for oral sex.

Days after his arrest, the Jaguars invited free-agent running back Madre Hill for a physical and evaluation. Hill spent last season on the Browns injured-reserve list.

To sign Hill to a two-year minimum salary of $298,000, the Jaguars are going to have to release a player since they already have an NFL-maximum 91 players on the roster entering training camp.

"I'm very disappointed in (Mack)," coach Tom Coughlin said. "I'm obviously going to spend a lot of time with him to find out what provoked the incident."

NOW HERE'S WHY: If it seemed premature that No. 1 pick Michael Vick opened Falcons training camp as the No. 2 quarterback, think again. The Falcons didn't move up in the draft to get Vick to watch him play scrubs in the preseason or waste time holding the clipboard in the regular season.

And considering the history of concussions suffered by No. 1 quarterback Chris Chandler, the Falcons are eager to see what Vick can do against better competition.

"If you're the second quarterback, you can get on the field at any time," coach Dan Reeves said. "If you're the third quarterback, you're basically sitting there as a fourth-quarter guy or an emergency guy. That's what I'm checking on now."

If Vick stays at No. 2, former Buc Eric Zeier will battle former Gator Doug Johnson for the No. 3 spot.

- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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