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Anthony on the rebound

After a forgettable 1999 on and off the field, the Bucs receiver is back to making an impact.

By RICK STROUD

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 19, 2000


CHICAGO -- It was a year ago this week that Reidel Anthony overslept after a night of partying in Orlando and missed a Saturday meeting that caused him to be benched the next day against Atlanta.

But Anthony's worst judgment wasn't trying to catch a few extra winks. He should have pulled the covers over his head for the rest of the season.

He never returned to the starting lineup, caught four more passes the rest of the season and missed both playoff games with a quadriceps strain.

"You lose confidence in yourself and your ability when you're not being used," Anthony said. "And when every little mistake you make is magnified, it tends to wear on you mentally, emotionally and physically. It really can affect you."

To make matters worse, the former Florida star learned he was wiped out financially. His agent, William "Tank' Black, was charged with fraud and lost more than $1-million -- nearly all of Anthony's savings -- in a phony investment scheme.

"When you get a call saying that you've lost over seven figures, that's not easy to deal with," Anthony said. "Imagine when that kind of money is taken away from you and you've worked all your life to be in that position."

That's what makes Anthony's comeback this season a feel-good story for the Bucs.

Although playing sparingly in the three-receiver package, Anthony hauled in his fourth touchdown pass in last week's 20-15 win against Green Bay.

What makes the achievement even more notable is that Anthony has 10 receptions all season but is one touchdown shy of Keyshawn Johnson's team-leading mark of five.

"He has more catches, but I have a chance to catch more touchdowns," Anthony said. "They were going to have to find ways to get Keyshawn the ball and we realized that. The only thing we had to do was stay patient and take advantage of our opportunities when they came around.

"One of my goals was to catch a lot of touchdowns. I don't recall how many I wrote down. But it was in the range from five to eight. I hope to lead the team in something."

With Anthony's production, the Bucs might consider using more three-receiver sets with Johnson and Jacquez Green to create mismatches.

"It might make them keep him on the field more and give him more playing time," Johnson said. "Situations like that are clutch situations. It's hard-pressed. So now, what if you get in a three-wide, down by five, 40 seconds to go, they double me and 'Quez falls down, can he come up with it? At least you've got the confidence in him that he built up earlier in the year that he can come up in those situations. So now you feel good about it."

The Bucs certainly feel better about Anthony than they did a year ago, when he caught 30 passes for 296 yards and one touchdown. He should have known it was going to be a bad year when on his first reception in the season opener against the Giants he sustained a rib contusion and missed the next game against Philadelphia.

Despite his injuries and the injustice of Black's betrayal, Anthony never made excuses for his poor performance.

"People don't understand that. When you're a professional athlete ... they just really care about what goes on on Sunday," Anthony said. "They don't know what goes on behind closed doors. They don't care to know about our personal lives. That's why when all that was going on last year and the season wasn't going well, I never used that as an excuse. I never talked about it and just tried to focus on football. But that is something that wears on you, too.

"It really comes down to the support of your friends and your family. You can hear from them and they just reassure you that you have the ability to make plays. Even if you aren't being utilized, you can't get down you've just got to hang in there."

This season, Anthony is doing just that. He's healthy, happy and helping the Bucs climb back into the playoff picture.

"I don't feel that anyone is perfect," Anthony said. "Everyone in their profession has had a bad year. A true professional can bounce back from it and go out and do a job. That's what I said to myself. I know last year wasn't one of my best but I can't dwell on the past, I've just got to move forward."

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