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Additional seats may benefit Bucs fans

[an error occurred while processing this directive] By RICK STROUD

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 11, 2000

TAMPA -- Several thousand temporary seats that will be used to expand Raymond James Stadium's capacity for Super Bowl XXXV could be installed for the regular season.

The NFL began erecting seats this week as an exercise for the stadium's expansion from 66,321 to 75,000 for the Jan. 28 game.

The NFL and the Bucs are considering leaving many of the temporary seats in the south end zone for the regular season. Expansion in the north end zone probably won't begin until after the NFC Championship Game because of Buccaneer Cove. The centerpiece 103-foot replica pirate ship will be dismantled for Super Bowl XXXV.

The seating could make more tickets available for the Bucs season.

"Yes, but it's not something we want to do," general manager Rich McKay said. "It's just that the time could get really tight and (the NFL is) testing to see how easy it is to get those seats in there and out of there."

SIGNINGS: The Bucs expect nearly all of their five draft picks to be under contract by the end of the week. They began that process Monday by reaching agreements on three-year contracts with tight end James Whalen and safety David Gibson.

The Bucs also signed safety Shevin Smith, an exclusive rights free agent, to a one-year contract. The team announced the signing of defensive end Chartric Darby to a one-year contract.

Darby (6 feet 1, 273 pounds) just completed a season with the Barcelona Dragons of NFL Europe, where he finished third in the league with 8.5 sacks.

Whalen, the Bucs' fifth-round choice from Kentucky, set an NCAA season record for receptions by a tight end with 90 as a senior. Gibson, a sixth-round choice from Southern Cal, recorded 232 tackles in four seasons with the Trojans.

Smith, a third-year pro from Florida State, played in all 16 games last season, recording a career-best 13 tackles and 18 special teams stops.

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