By ROGER MILLS, RICK STROUD, ERNEST HOOPER
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 24, 2000
TAMPA -- Tackle Jason Odom was unable to practice Wednesday, one day after aggravating a lower back strain during his first workout with the team since training camp started.
There is no timetable for his return. The Bucs plan to wait until the final roster cut down to 53 players Sunday before deciding whether to place Odom on injured reserve.
"We're kind of back to square one, and we'll have to wait and see what's going to happen," said coach Tony Dungy, who added that it would take "something like" a miracle for Odom to play in the season opener Sept. 3 at New England.
Veteran Pete Pierson is expected to start at left tackle against the Patriots and be backed up by George Hegamin. "We'll just go along with the plan that Pete and George are the guys who will be ready to go on opening day," offensive line coach Chris Foerster said. OFFSIDE: An unidentified man obtained a team pass to watch practice, and he gained entrance by following guests through a gate. He walked onto the field at the start of practice and attempted to hand Dungy a note before security intervened and removed him from the property without incident.
"That was interesting. ... We usually have pretty good security," Dungy said. "He just came out and had a letter or something about someone being evicted from their house and wanted to know if the Bucs could help out. You never know. The guy could've been Jack Ruby or someone like that."
Bucs director of security Andres Trescastro escorted the man from the field.
"He took one of the passes that was on the floor. He walked in," Trescastro said. "Then what freaked me out, as I'm trying to go to get him, he's walking out on the field."
GRAMACTICALLY INCORRECT: Placekicker Martin Gramatica is trying to get his field-goal attempts straightened out. Wednesday, he struggled in the team's two-minute drill.
"He's not kicking in team situations as well as he normally does," Dungy said. "No, I'm not really concerned at this point. If he's our biggest problem this year, we'll have a great year."
CULPEPPER SIGNS WITH BEARS: Defensive tackle Brad Culpepper, cut by the Bucs on Monday, signed with the Bears and said the team reminds him of the '97 Bucs.
"The defense needs to get better, and the offense has a lot of potential with a young quarterback," he said. "It's exciting."
Culpepper took a physical and started reviewing the playbook. He chose Chicago over several other suitors for a number of reasons. The move reunites him college position coach Rex Norris, and he likes the Bears' scheme. The Bears meet Tampa Bay on Sept. 10, and Culpepper hopes he can contain his enthusiasm. "Obviously, it's not just another game, but that's how I'm going to try to treat it," he said. "I don't want to get too excited and overextend myself. ... I just want to be fundamentally sound and play as hard as I can."
HAMILTON READY FOR MORE WORK: It was a stretch for a seventh-round draft pick to make a team that made it to the NFC Championship Game last season, but that's what rookie quarterback Joe Hamilton accomplished when the team waived Scott Milanovich on Monday.
"It's a good feeling, the fact that you came in here and worked and won some respect from your teammates, won some respect from your coaching staff," Hamilton said. "I know I have to keep working and keep doing the things that help me get better."
Dungy said the decision to keep Hamilton as the third-string quarterback was affected by the 23-year-old's potential.
"We like Joe an awful lot," Dungy said. "Do you go with a guy you feel is going to improve, or do you go with a guy who may be a little better right now? We just felt that where we were, Joe Hamilton was the best for our 53-man squad."
Said Hamilton: "I want to be the guy that can step in and be counted on."
WAITING GAME: Tight end Todd Yoder, a rookie free agent trying to make the team, has had a solid camp and continues to make a number of key catches in practice. But the Bucs have Dave Moore and Patrick Hape, and also plan to use Mike Alstott at tight end.
Yoder said he understands that he is in a battle with Henry Lusk, draft pick James Whalen and recent signee Blake Spence for no more than two spots.
"You have to know your place and take advantage of everything," said Yoder, who caught the winning touchdown in the 13-12 preseason victory against the Redskins. "The three games that I have played, I thought I did well."
Yoder, out of Vanderbilt, said he's not worried about the next wave of cuts.
"I'm doing the best that I can do, and if that's not good enough, then that's not good enough," Yoder said. "But I don't think that I'm selling myself short."
NEW KIDS IN TOWN: With injuries to Dexter Jackson and Shevin Smith and starter Damien Robinson just returning from a hamstring strain that has kept him out since July 24, former Eagles safety Lemar Marshall, who signed Wednesday, said he welcomes the opportunity to show what he can do.
"I know that they have a lot of guys who are banged up, so I have to look at this as a great opening," Marshall said. "The key will probably be what I can do on special teams."
Marshall, along with Spence, who also signed Wednesday, face a tough battle trying to make the team in the final week of the preseason. "What we have to do is play hard and show them everything we can do," Marshall said. "We can't control the other things. But other teams look at the film as well."
BUCS BITS: The Bucs have played the Chiefs, Friday's opponent, three times in the preseason. Tampa Bay defeated Kansas City 20-7 in Tampa in 1991, lost 17-13 in Norman, Okla., in 1998 and prevailed 17-7 in Kansas City last year. ... Much has been made about the Bucs' offensive gains, but against the Patriots in Sunday's 31-21 win, the Bucs were 9-for-19 (47 percent) in third-down opportunities. They were 3-for-22 in third-down situations in the two previous preseason games.
OUT: Safety Dexter Jackson (right ankle sprain), tackle Jason Odom (lower back strain), safety Shevin Smith (dislocated left big toe).
QUESTIONABLE: Defensive tackle/end Tyoka Jackson (left rib strain), guard Frank Middleton (right elbow bruise), linebacker Jamie Duncan (knee), running back Ketric Sanford (shoulder).
PROBABLE: Tight end Patrick Hape (right foot sprain).