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Webster to get his 1st start

By RICK STROUD

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 8, 2000


TAMPA -- Another rookie will make his first NFL start on Monday Night Football against the Minnesota Vikings.

Nate Webster, a third-round pick from Miami, will start at middle linebacker in place of Jamie Duncan.

Last year, Bucs quarterback Shaun King made his first pro start on MNF against the Vikings at Raymond James Stadium.

Duncan, who missed workouts Thursday and Friday because of a concussion he sustained last week at Washington, returned to practice on Saturday and was cleared by team doctors to play.

But because Webster has taken nearly all the repetitions in practice with the first-team defense, coach Tony Dungy said he will start.

"I think Nate will do fine," Dungy said. "It's a big game, but he's played in big games before. I think he's very fired up about the opportunity."

However, Duncan made it through workouts Saturday with no ill effects and will be available to play Monday.

"It was really kind of based on how things go today. He really has not had any symptoms all week," Dungy said. "So our feeling is he's going to be able to play. But we'll wait on the doctors to give us that verification."

Duncan said he felt ready to play following practice on Saturday.

"I just wanted to get out there and get some reps," Duncan said. "I was fine. You enjoy the days off, but you want to be out there practicing and getting better. It felt good to get back out there.

"I didn't get the reps (this week), so I had to do other things to compensate for it, watch more film and be alert for everything they do."

BAD PATTERN: Every year, the Bucs vow not to let the Vikings get off to a hot start in the Metrodome. For the past two years, that's precisely what Minnesota has done.

Tampa Bay has been outscored by a combined 42-7 in the first half in their past two trips to the Metrodome. The Bucs fell behind 21-0 in the first quarter and lost 21-14 last season. Two years ago, they trailed 21-0 at halftime and lost 31-7.

Dungy said his team again will attempt to guard against the Vikings starting quickly.

"It's knowing you've got to expect them to come out on fire, you have to expect them to go up the field," Dungy said. "Those kinds of things. You've just got to be ready to make the plays.

"Offensively, we've got to execute early like we did in Detroit, where we're coming out aggressively, we're making plays, converting our third downs, staying on the field and keeping the ball. "

HAPPY RETURNS: The Bucs hoped to settle on one punt returner this season, but the knee injury to Karl Williams has changed those plans.

Veteran Andre Hastings, who was inactive the first five games, will replace Williams as punt returner Monday night, Dungy said Saturday.

INACTIVES: Fullback Charles Kirby, safety David Gibson, tackle DeMarcus Curry and Williams were named inactive for the game.

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