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One man's pain is another's chance

Injured Bucs receivers means backups could get the spotlight.

By ROGER MILLS

© St. Petersburg Times,
published October 24, 2001


TAMPA -- As the Bucs went through light drills Monday afternoon, receivers coach Charlie Williams realized just how costly Sunday's loss to the Steelers was.

Three receivers were on the practice field: Reidel Anthony, Frank Murphy and Milton Wynn. They have combined for seven catches this season, and Wynn has not played in the NFL.

Three receivers were in the locker room: Keyshawn Johnson, Jacquez Green and Karl Williams. They were being treated for injuries ranging from serious to minor.

But, Charlie Williams said, there was no time to complain.

"The bottom line is that the guys on the field have to get ready to go out and play because when we practice, we practice with the guys that we're assuming will play on Sunday," Williams said. "The guys who are healthy are the guys who will play on Sunday. If the regulars can't go, then those who practice and get the reps will be ready and will be out there."

The Bucs begin preparation for Sunday's NFC Central game with the Vikings aware of the possibility that neither Johnson nor Green could be in uniform. Johnson has a hip pointer and a thigh bruise, and Green has a hip strain. For now, the focus turns to those ready to seize the day.

Begin with Anthony.

In his fifth season, the 25-year-old has weathered an up-and-down career and appears to be on solid footing.

Should Johnson or Green sit out Sunday, Anthony likely will the first man back in the rotation.

"It's not like I have never started in this league before," Anthony said. "So, I have to come prepared like I do every week, as if I was a starter. There's no added pressure. I have to come out and go to work and figure the game plan, what I need to do to help the team win. It's not complicated."

Once seen as one of the Bucs' most promising talents, Anthony has been humbled by his experiences over the past few seasons. He said he has embraced the role of the eager backup.

"It's very tough (not getting many chances), but part of being a professional is knowing that your job isn't going to come easy," Anthony said. "I'm just being humble and trying to prepare so that I can take advantage of the opportunity when it comes."

Being the consummate backup is something Karl Williams understands fully. In his sixth season out of Texas A&M Kingsville, the unassuming Williams, who missed Monday's practice with sore hamstrings but is expected to practice today, has a chance to make his first start since the 1999 season or at least to see significant playing time.

"For me, this is business as usual," said Williams, who had three catches for 42 yards against the Steelers. "I have been playing this role all my career. I'm familiar with the challenges of being expected to come off the bench and produce as a starter. I think the key to that is preparing like a starter.

"True, you have to know your role. But it still should not affect how you go about daily practices. I plan to go about things the same way I always have."

Then there is Murphy. A former running back who spent the bulk of last season on the practice roster, Murphy has the strength to be a possession receiver and the speed to be a deep threat. What he lacks is experience and he got some in a hurry Sunday.

Coming into the game late in the fourth quarter, Murphy had three catches for 17 yards, the last three plays of the Bucs final drive, including a 5-yard touchdown from Brad Johnson. It was the first of his career.

"It felt great," Murphy said. "I've been working my butt off to try to get back to the level I was before I had problems with the shoulder and thumb. But I was thankful that the coaches had faith in me to put me in the game at that time. They sent me out there in a two-minute situation like that. I prayed for the opportunity and God gave me a chance, and I did what I was supposed to do."

Charlie Williams said while the team has seen Anthony and Williams perform in the past, Murphy's effort against the Steelers should enhance his chances to get on the field more often.

"The good thing about it is that now Frank won't go in there cold turkey," he said. "The other two have been in the fire. Now he has, to some extent. So now, their reps just go up and (if either Johnson or Green aren't ready) they'll do a good job."

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