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Anthony needs touches, and to forget the past

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© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 8, 2001

TAMPA -- The microphones were clustered in one huge bunch and there were so many television cameras packed together, Warrick Dunn probably couldn't have gotten through them.

You would have thought Gary Condit was about to tell all about Chandra Levy, but instead Reidel Anthony was about to speak.

"You take a week off and you get a lot of attention," Reidel said Monday after his first workout on a tender ankle that had kept him out of the first week of training camp. "Wow, I feel important."

He was kidding around, but you know what they say about there being a little truth behind every joke. Nothing, after all, masks frustration and bitterness better than humor.

Not that Reidel is complaining. These past two seasons have shown him how useless that is. Instead, he is only operating in the present, utterly detached from the past and all the ugliness that it holds.

Detached from the injuries. From the Tank Black fiasco. From losing his starting receiver spot. From losing playing time. From taking a pay cut in the offseason.

It's enough to drag a guy down, to obstruct what still could be a fairly gratifying career with the Bucs. And Reidel ain't having it.

"You're only as good," he said, "as your opportunities."

In that respect, you might have figured Reidel hasn't been worth the price of admission lately. People catch colds with more regularity than he has caught passes the past two seasons.

He had 30 catches for 296 yards in 1999 and 15 catches for 232 yards last season. Tight end Dave Moore had 29, almost twice as many.

If it is that black-and-white to you, you're probably part of the crowd that thinks Reidel is on the bubble in this training camp. You've probably been talking up guys like Frank Murphy and Karl Williams, not-so-subtly dropping hints that change may be coming.

And, truth be told, you might be right.

But are you sure?

Reidel has played four seasons here, but who can really say with certainty where his value lies? It's hard to tell because he has been "in the shadows" so much these past two seasons, left to scramble for whatever was left behind by marquee starters Bert Emanuel and Keyshawn Johnson.

Remember, opportunities.

When Reidel was a starter his first two seasons, he delivered. After having 35 catches for 448 yards and four touchdowns his rookie season, he had 51 grabs for 708 yards and seven scores the next season, leading the team in those categories.

But then came the injuries, a rib contusion in the 1999 season opener that lingered for weeks. Then he lost his starting spot. Then his agent, Black, was caught stealing money from his clients. And so on.

He had his moments last season. There was that 46-yard catch and run for a touchdown against the Redskins. And that ridiculously clutch 22-yard catch on the 1-yard line on Monday Night Football against the Rams that set up the winning score.

There were a few more, but the issue here isn't quality, it's quantity.

"I think he can really bring some things to the table for us," coach Tony Dungy said. "He's a guy who has the ability to catch a lot of balls and make things happen after the catch."

If the Bucs really believe that, then let Reidel prove them right. Or wrong.

Hey, every receiver wants the ball more, but if you truly believe Reidel can break open games, then let's find out for sure.

Define his role and turn him loose. Don't send him on any curl or hook patterns. Stretch the field with him. Run him underneath the coverage where he'll have room to run after the catch. Put it in his hands a little more and let him nail you or fail you.

"It's like Keyshawn said, he can't do nothing without the ball," Reidel said. "I need touches to show what I can do. ... If I'm not getting the job done, then don't throw me the ball. But I just say, give me some attempts, get me in a groove and see what I can do."

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