Published: Oct 16, 2004

TAMPA - There is no denying the Bucs are 1-4, but ask just about anyone in their locker room, and they'll tell you that record is not an accurate reflection of their ability and that they're eager to show it Monday against St. Louis.
``We are 1-4 in reality but this is a chance to prove that record is not indicative of the character of this team and that we're in fact better than that,'' DE Simeon Rice said.

Many Bucs said they want to prove that to the rest of the league, but some said it's more important to prove that to the players in their own locker room.

``Right now it's a matter of us proving to ourselves that we're better than 1-4,'' WR Charles Lee said. ``We know what kind of character we have in here and nobody is going to quit.''

QB Brian Griese isn't about to quit. Not when he suddenly has a chance to take the starting quarterback job away from the injured Chris Simms, but he said he's most concerned right now with keeping the Bucs on a winning track.

``This is a team that's very hungry and one that understands that we've let an opportunity slip away,'' said Griese, who will make his first start for the Bucs.

``We also understand that it's early in the season and that no matter what anybody says, no matter what injuries we might have, that we can get back into this and do something this season.''

MANY HAPPY RETURNS: Led by Torrie Cox, who ranks second in the NFC with a 26.2- yard kick return average, the Bucs have the fifth-best mark in the NFL.

The Bucs punt return team hasn't kept pace. That unit ranks 29th in the league with a 4.3-yard average, and the decision to replace injured returner Joey Galloway with Tim Brown seems to be one reason for the low rating.

Brown has stood back as the Bucs punt returner 11 times this season, but has only returned three punts, the longest for 8 yards. Brown has called for a fair catch on the others, a move that Coach Jon Gruden defended this week.

``In fairness to the punt returners, I have never seen guys punt the ball like they are punting it to us,'' Gruden said. ``Some of these are orbital, majestic blows and there is going to be no return.''

Still, Gruden admitted that the Bucs believe they can do better on punt returns and said it may not be long before they start working someone else there.

``We tried to get Michael Clayton to do that,'' Gruden said. ``He is not quite ready for that, although he will be in time. You need a great decision-maker and a sure-handed man back there.''

Cox is another possibility. Gruden said Friday that Cox has been working on returning punts and the Bucs may use him there if he proves capable of handling the ball without incident.

THE GREATEST RAP OF ALL: Former league MVP Kurt Warner may be gone, but Torry Holt, Marshall Faulk and Isaac Bruce remain, and so does the moniker.

The Rams offense is still referred to by many as the ``Greatest Show on Turf,'' and that clearly rankles at least one member of the Bucs offense.

``Anytime I step on the football field I want to have something to say about who is the best receiver on the field,'' Lee said. ``I always feel like I'm that guy, so I'm pretty sure that when we go up there this week there will be a little extra incentive for the receivers to do well.''

IS IT IN THE GAME? It doesn't look good for the Bucs on Monday night. Not according to the folks at EA Sports.

In a simulated preview of the game, Bucs K Martin Gramatica played EA Sports Madden 2005 on Xbox Live against St. Louis LB Robert Thomas and Thomas' Rams beat the Bucs handily, 30-7.

Gramatica's big mistake came in putting S Dwight Smith back to field punts. Smith fumbled on his first return try just minutes into the game and the Rams quickly converted the turnover into an early 7-0 lead.

The Rams had a 14-0 lead by halftime and rolled from there, eventually building a 30-0 lead on scores that included a 48- yard run by Faulk.

BUCS BITS: Friday morning's heavy rains forced the Bucs to shave about 40 minutes off their workout at One Buc Place. The Bucs will be back on the field today for another walk-through. ... MLB Shelton Quarles returned to practice Friday and is still listed as probable for Monday's game with a quad strain. DT Ellis Wyms (back strain, probable) also practiced Friday.

- Roy Cummings