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McKay has his eyes on realignment

By RICK STROUD

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 8, 2000


TAMPA -- If the Bucs don't win the NFC Central this season, they'll probably never win it again.

Is that cynical? Pessimistic? Too many hot dogs at halftime?

Not really. It's because the NFL will have to realign its divisions by June 2001. In fact, there is a special meeting of the league's owners in January just to discuss that topic.

In almost every realignment scenario that has been proposed the past few years, the Bucs are a prime candidate to be removed from the NFC Central. And you might be surprised to learn that it's just dandy with Bucs general manager Rich McKay.

"There's no built-in rivalries or great ties," McKay said. "I think the NFC Central has been a good fit for us in one sense and that's it's been good to have fans come down here. When this franchise wasn't very good, it created a way to sell tickets and a way to create interest. It's not as applicable now.

"In the end, I don't think it's which plan they lean to, it's which plan can they get approved? You would think it's the plan that affects the least amount of teams."

In fact, about the only criterion that the Bucs might have involving their possible realignment is that they not be placed in a division that includes mostly west coast teams.

Several proposals advocate creating a regional division that might include Carolina, Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Houston or Jacksonville. But the first consideration might not be geography.

"It could be, although there's a lot of interesting issues because of the Western Time Zone," McKay said. "You've got to make sure they've got enough games to put on late.

"I think you do care. It's hard to say why you care. But you don't want to end up with west coast teams. You don't want to be the traveling team."

BETTER WEEK: With the Monday night game, the Bucs had an extra day off and were a little sluggish in practice because of it. But Dungy said the tempo picked up in practice Friday and Saturday.

"We got off to a slow start," (coach Tony Dungy said. "They had the two days off coming off a very physical game. So Thursday wasn't as sharp as we would like it. But yesterday and today were very good and I think our guys are looking forward to the challenge.

"Knowing what Monday Night Football is all about and that kind of thing, I think we'll go up and play well."

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