By DARRELL FRY, ROGER MILLS and RICK STROUD
© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 1, 2001
TAMPA -- Mark Royals wore a knee brace and an expression of relief Tuesday after learning the injury he sustained in a punt blocking drill was not season-ending.
Royals sprained the medial collateral ligament in his right (kicking) leg after an unidentified player was blocked into him during special teams practice Monday.
Team physicians told Royals he has a reasonable chance of returning for the regular-season opener against Dallas on Sept. 9.
"All I know is it's a sprained MCL, and if you're going to have something sprained that's probably the one to have sprained," Royals said. " ... Anything else could've meant possible surgery and I would've been gone for the season.
"I just know I've been told I should be ready to play opening day when we go to Dallas."
Royals said he was worried his season might be over when he was carted off the field Monday.
"It's new territory for me," Royals said. "I've played 13 years and never had a significant injury. I was very disappointed. ... I was scared more than anything because I didn't know what the result would be."
The Bucs do not plan to immediately sign another punter. Free agent Andrew Bayes, who kicked for Frankfurt of NFL Europe, will punt in training camp. He also has begun working as a holder on placekicks for Martin Gramatica.
"(Bayes has) punted the ball very well," coach Tony Dungy said. "Andrew has a great leg and works hard. He just hasn't done it in an NFL game. But he's got an NFL-caliber leg and that's all we can go on now."
If Royals' injury lingers, the Bucs would consider signing a veteran punter. Former Saints, Carolina and Bucs punter Tommy Barnhardt and former Eagles punter Tommy Hutton are available.
"I went into training camp with aspirations to win this job and be a Buccaneer," Bayes said. "Mark's a veteran I've looked up to ever since I began kicking and my prayers go out to him. But I've got an opportunity to show the coaches and players what I can do."
Royals is expected to begin rehabilitation in a few days. He said he is scheduled to do exercises in a pool.
"I will aggressively rehab," Royals said. "Mentally, I've been playing for a long time and all I would need is a couple of days. I'll work very hard to make sure I won't lose strength."
NO PROGRESS: No negotiations took place between officials and Derrick Brooks' agent. And no future talks are scheduled, the agent, Roosevelt Barnes, said.
"I think everyone is taking a couple of days to regroup and Derrick is sitting back and evaluating what's going on," Barnes said. "I think this is a normal course of action. It's the second day of training camp and usually right after the storm it gets real quiet."
Barnes said Brooks, 28, a training camp holdout because he wants a new contract, has been working out twice a day. Brooks' contract, which runs through 2002, calls for about $3-million this season.
"He's running, lifting and staying in shape," Barnes said. "He calls me sometimes at 6 a.m., and he's already finished his run.
"He's trying to stay busy to keep his mind off of stuff."
Barnes said he remains optimistic an agreement can be reached.
"We've had success working with the Bucs in the past. They're tough, but we've always been able to come up with something," Barnes said. "Hopefully we can work this out so everybody can get some sleep."
TOUGH TALK: Dungy said the workouts Monday and Tuesday were not championship caliber and he let his team know it. Dungy is trying to make his players more accountable for their mistakes in practice in hopes of avoiding losing streaks on the field.
"The thing I'm a little more conscious of is letting them know a little more if they're meeting the standard. Not just what's expected to get by, but what's expected to win a championship," Dungy said.
"They have to determine if they really want it. Everyone says they want to go to a Super Bowl and that's easy to say. ... But you say, "We can go, but it's going to take a certain level of practice every day, it's going to take a certain level of commitment in the meetings, it's going to take a certain level of commitment to rest at night,' then maybe it's not that important. They might say, "I don't want to do all that. I'd like to go to a Super Bowl, but not if it takes all that.' So we'll find out."
INJURIES: Quarterback Brad Johnson (lacerated knee), linebacker Nate Webster (back), receiver Reidel Anthony (ankle), guard Russ Hochstein (broken hand), receiver Frank Rice (right hamstring), cornerback Terrance Parrish (right Achilles sprain) and receiver Jamie Wilson (left hamstring) did not practice. Anthony could return by the end of the week.
SIGNING: The team signed free agent Mike Chandler out of Kansas to supplement a receiver corps that has been nagged by injuries. In addition to Rice and Anthony, Jacquay Nunnally has a hamstring strain. Chandler played briefly in the CFL and arenafootball2.