By RICK STROUD and DARRELL FRY
© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 30, 2001
TAMPA -- With a little more than a week before the regular season kicks off, Jamie Duncan appears to have held off second-year pro Nate Webster for the starting job at middle linebacker.
But while Duncan managed not to lose his position, he might have to share it.
"If we were playing the Dallas Cowboys tomorrow, Jamie Duncan would start the game," linebackers coach Joe Barry said. "Now Nate Webster is going to play a lot. But if we were to start tomorrow, Jamie Duncan would be our first-team middle linebacker and Nate Webster would be our second team.
"We're very fortunate. We could throw a dart and hit Nate and say, 'You're starting today.' Or hit Jamie and say, 'You're starting today.' A lot of people in the league at a lot of positions aren't that fortunate and we are."
NEW TIGHT END: The Bucs claimed rookie tight end Mike Roberg off waivers from the Panthers on Wednesday. Roberg was a seventh-round pick from Idaho. To make room for Roberg on the 65-man roster, the team reached an injury settlement with offensive tackle Brian Gruber, who missed much of training camp with a right knee sprain.
JONES BACK: Defensive end Marcus Jones has a tender right hamstring, but clearly there's nothing wrong with his brain.
Jones, sidelined the past two preseason games, returned to practice. He said he returned partly because his hamstring is feeling stronger, and partly because he recognizes the competition on the defensive line is so strong he could lose his starting job.
"Every single day," Jones said, smiling when asked if he has worried about losing his spot while he has been sidelined. "Every time I turn on the game film, I see all kinds of things happening out there. I see guys getting good rushes and stuff like that. And I'm saying to myself, 'I have to hurry back.' I've been on the sideline for three years and I don't want to be back there, so I have to hurry back."
ENJOYING THE GOOD LIFE: Todd Washington, who has been filling in at center for injured starter Jeff Christy, is enjoying himself so much he doesn't want to go back to being a backup, even though he knows he will.
"It'll be tough," he said. "After you get a little taste of it, you want more, you want more. Like a kid in a candy store, you want more, you want more.
"But I know that (Christy) is the guy. He's the man and they expect me to be his backup. They want the confidence in me where if something does go wrong, like he gets hurt, they can throw me in at any time and we won't miss a beat.
"When it's time for him to come back, there won't be any hard feelings. I'll just give it back to him and wait for my turn again."
YOU'RE NOT THE WEAKEST LINK: Even though the Bucs will open the regular season with two starting offensive linemen who have started regular-season games, backup tackle DeMarcus Curry said the line is better than last season.
"I feel like we're going to be just as good and probably even better," Curry said. "We have a whole lot more power now. We've got (rookie) Kenyatta Walker, who has good, strong, quick feet. And we've got wise veterans in the middle. We've got, in my opinion, a real good line."
INJURIES: Jones (hamstring) might not play Friday in Atlanta. Defensive tackle Warren Sapp (shoulder sprain) did not practice and is questionable. Christy (knee) and guard Russ Hochstein (left foot fracture) will not play. Defensive end Joe Tafoya (leg) is not expected to play.