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Answers still lacking on Gruber goodbye


© St. Petersburg Times, published September 3, 2000

DEDHAM, Mass. -- Paul Gruber's decision to end his 12-year playing career did not totally surprise players and coaches. But the timing of the announcement did.

Gruber's agent, Ralph Cindrich, told reporters Friday night that the Bucs left tackle would announce his retirement on Tuesday.

He did not give team officials any indication, however, that Gruber's decision would be forthcoming on Friday despite several conversations that day with general manager Rich McKay.

After the Bucs arrived in New England Saturday, both McKay and coach Tony Dungy declined to comment on Gruber's retirement.

"This is really not the time. Let him talk (Tuesday)," McKay said. "There's not much to say."

Players, however, said they would miss No. 74.

"I didn't know about it until I read that he was retiring," quarterback Shaun King said. "You have to respect that it's what's best for him and his family. I just wish we had him with us this year."

Right tackle Jerry Wunsch, sort of a protege of Gruber's who also played at the University of Wisconsin, said Gruber had the biggest influence on his career.

"It's tough," Wunsch said. "But also Paul is a guy who went out on his own terms. He's done a lot of great things in Tampa. He's been a solid player for Tampa Bay, even through the lean years. He could've gone different places and left Tampa, but he had a commitment to Tampa and he stood by it.

"He's helped me my whole way through. He's explained to me what it is to be an NFL player, what was expected and what wasn't. Any time I had any questions, I was also able to get the right answers from Paul."

Gruber spent the off-season, including most of August, at a training center in Colorado recovering from a broken leg in the final regular-season game at Chicago.

Bucs officials met with Gruber last week and said he was ready to begin training to get into football shape.

But the Bucs did not expect Gruber to be ready to play for at least a month and were not prepared to offer him a contract or provide a roster spot. Whether that factored into Gruber's decision is uncertain, even to club officials.

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