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Old, new faces are in camp

By RICK STROUD

© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 22, 2001


TAMPA -- Training camp is a time of renewal for NFL teams. But other than the obvious change at quarterback, much remains the same old, same old for the Buccaneers.

Is there anyone who doubts Brad Johnson, who signed a five-year, $28-million deal, will take the helm from Shaun King? Besides King, that is?

Of course not.

Johnson also has the support of key teammates like Warrick Dunn and Keyshawn Johnson, to say nothing of offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen. So the only battle will be between King and Ryan Leaf for the clipboard.

"I think it helps to have a guy with leadership qualities who has been in the fire a lot," Keyshawn Johnson said. "Shaun King is going to be a fine professional and I personally feel better if something happens to Brad. Having Brad here is only going to help him."

There will be a new starter at right defensive end as Simeon Rice takes over for Marcus Jones, who shifts to the left.

Dexter Jackson will inherit the free-safety spot vacated by Damien Robinson, a position he might have won last training camp, save for an injury.

The Bucs also will have a new left tackle in rookie Kenyatta Walker, presuming he doesn't stage a prolonged and harmful holdout. And Cosey Coleman takes over for departed right guard Frank Middleton.

Other than that, the battle will be for roster spots, not starting spots.

Here is a look at some of the more intriguing positions.

KICK RETURNER: The Bucs are tired of the committee approach and want to settle on a punt- and kickoff-return man. That's why Karl Williams and Aaron Stecker better get the job done in training camp or turn in their playbooks.

Frank Murphy, making a bid for the No. 3 receiver position, will get a chance to return kicks and possibly take Williams' job. Reidel Anthony better give it a try, as well.

MIDDLE LINEBACKER: After a slow start, Jamie Duncan made some enormous plays down the stretch. But second-year pro Nate Webster is gaining ground and might force Duncan into a job-sharing arrangement.

FREE SAFETY: Jackson won't win the job by default. David Gibson could make a push for playing time and the Bucs drafted Colorado State's John Howell in the fourth round.

CORNERBACK: Donnie Abraham and Ronde Barber are locks. But rookie Dwight Smith, a third-rounder from Akron, will be given every opportunity to take Brian Kelly's job at nickel back.

Kelly is in the final year of his contract and would do well to land with the expansion Houston Texans next season.

QUARTERBACK: Leaf could be the darling of training camp, particularly since he will carve up some scrubs in the fourth quarter of preseason games.

It'll be interesting to see if he can make up ground on King. If not, how quietly will he accept being No. 3?

LEFT TACKLE: Walker will be handed the job the day he arrives in camp. Pete Pierson will try to hang on to the backup job and George Hegamin returns to right tackle to back up Jerry Wunsch.

RECEIVER: Johnson and Jacquez Green should start. But Murphy is getting raves and either Anthony or Williams could be shown the door.

SEEING DOUBLE: Sports Illustrated devoted seven pages to illustrate and tell the story of Barber and his identical twin brother, Tiki, the Giants running back.

They are pictured holding hands on swings in identical suspenders and shorts that would be cute if they weren't so goofy.

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