By ROGER MILLS
© St. Petersburg Times,
published October 29, 2001
TAMPA -- On Tuesday, the Bucs informed Pro Bowl cornerback Donnie Abraham that he had lost his starting position to fourth-year player Brian Kelly.
The news was not pleasant, but not devastating.
Kelly, Abraham was told, was simply outplaying the man who led the team with seven interceptions last season. Abraham said he had only one way to react.
"They said he was playing better than me and, at the time, something needed to be done to shake up the defense, so they did it," Abraham said. "This is a job and people have to understand that I have to be a professional. It's a business. Things are going to happen like this. You're going to be faced with adversity and you have to keep going."
Kelly, who had four tackles and a sack Sunday against the Vikings, started the season with a bang, making a big third-down stop of Emmitt Smith near the goal line in the opener at Dallas. His confidence and play have soared since.
"The decision had nothing to do (with) winning and losing, and Donnie was not the scapegoat for the situation we put ourselves in," secondary coach Mike Tomlin said. "Ever since I've been here I've told the guys that the best people are going to play. ... It's not a fly-by-night or overnight thing. It's over an extended period of time and Brian has done well. He deserved the opportunity and that's the way things are."
Tomlin said he understood how difficult it is for a Pro Bowl player to lose his starting spot, but said Abraham's makeup made it a smooth transition.
"Donnie reacted exactly the way you would expect a Pro Bowl (player) to do," he said. "He came out there and played hard, physical and flew around. It's going to be tough on Brian to keep it, but the bottom line is the Bucs are getting what we want: We are getting great corner play."
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