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[Bucs] Barber Beats The System

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  • [Bucs] Barber Beats The System

    By ROY CUMMINGS [email protected]
    Published: Oct 14, 2004

    TAMPA - Bucs coach Jon Gruden has been talking all season about finding a way to get cornerback Ronde Barber involved in his offense.
    As it turns out, the only thing Gruden had to do to get some offense out of Barber was leave him on defense.

    It may be more of an indictment of the Bucs offense than an example of the veteran's versatility, but Barber leads the team with two touchdowns.

    ``Hey, I'm just doing my job,'' Barber said. ``If you look at the board that lists our job descriptions on defense, it says score and get the ball back for our offense.

    ``I take that literally.''

    Good thing. If not for Barber's latest TD - a fumble return Sunday against New Orleans - the Bucs (1-4) might still be winless.

    Though their offense had its best game of the season against the Saints, it was Barber's second-quarter score that gave the Bucs a lead they never lost.

    ``It's plays like that that win you games,'' Gruden said. ``And in the last few years Ronde Barber has made a lot of them for us.''

    He's made eight to be precise - more touchdowns than any defender ever to wear a Bucs uniform.

    Nevertheless, Barber, 29, can't seem to shake the image of a player who excels only because he works well in the Bucs' zone-based system.

    The label ``system guy'' has hung with him like a shadow. If you need proof, check out the 2004 Sporting News Pro Football Scouting Guide.

    ``In any other scheme,'' the guide says, ``Barber would not be nearly as productive.''

    What's supposedly holding Barber back, according to the scouts, is the fact he lacks ideal speed and strength.

    But at least one former foe doesn't buy any of the knocks. Not anymore, he doesn't.

    ``In Oakland we didn't really hear that much about him, not even during Super Bowl week,'' former Raiders receiver Tim Brown said. ``All anybody ever really said was that he was a good corner.

    ``But since I've been here I've developed a whole new level of respect for him. ...

    ``There's more to being a cornerback than knocking down balls and that kind of stuff, you know, and he has it all. He has cover ability, he can tackle you, he has the ability to digest formations and play intelligent football.

    ``Believe me, I've been around a long time and seen a lot of guys and you see a lot of guys with one or two of those skills, but you rarely see guys with all of them. He's got all of them. And on top of that, he's tough as nails.''

    Mentally tough is what Bucs defensive backs coach Mike Tomlin calls Barber, who admits it took him a while to get over the knocks that scouts delivered in evaluating him.

    ``It used to bother me,'' he said. ``But now, I don't mind being considered the best scheme guy in a league where everybody's playing the same scheme. I take it as a compliment.''

    Rams coach Mike Martz gave Barber a compliment.

    ``He doesn't get the credit he deserves,'' said Martz, who watched the 5-foot-10, 184- pounder record 10 tackles against the Rams two years ago. ``He's all over the field.''

    It's not unusual for Barber to have as many sacks, forced fumbles and fumble recoveries as he does interceptions in a season. But that is mostly by design.

    ``In our system he's not always going to be in a position to make a lot of interceptions,'' Gruden said. ``That's because he comes inside a lot and plays the slot in the nickel. He blitzes a lot. In our system he's not going to be around the ball as much as he would be in some other systems. But I can tell you this: I want him on my team. He's going to be in my Pro Bowl every year.''

    Ah yes, the Pro Bowl. The opportunity to play in the league's all-star game so far has eluded Barber, and like the ``system'' tag, that fact gnaws at him a bit.

    ``The thing we always talk about here is Pro Bowl-caliber play,'' Tomlin said. ``We ask that you give us that because that's something you can control and Ronde is a guy that does it week in and week out.''

    He certainly gave it to them last week. In addition to returning that Deuce McAllister fumble for a touchdown, he recorded seven tackles, including one on special teams, and batted down a pass.

    ``I think he's taken his game to another level,'' Gruden said. ``And one of these days we are going to use him on offense, because he can play offense or defense. He's just a great football player. He's one of those guys. Some guys got it and he's one them. He's got it.''

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  • DJRamFan
    [Bucs] Manic Monte
    by DJRamFan
    By ROY CUMMINGS [email protected]
    Published: Oct 17, 2004

    ST. LOUIS - Hang around Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin long enough and you get the feeling that if you could somehow tap into him, you'd discover an alternative energy source.
    Kiffin is the human equivalent of the silver ball in a pinball machine. He's not walking or even running through life; he's bouncing through it like the sheared end of a downed power line.

    ``You know how it is when you get so worked up that you can't even get the words out to speak? That's Monte,'' safety John Howell said. ``And he's like that all the time, every day.

    ``He's like that at practice, he's like that before games. He's like that when he's getting ready to turn on the tape machine for us to watch film in a meeting. He just eats, sleeps and breathes this stuff.''

    Kiffin definitely eats and breathes football. Whether he sleeps it or not is up for debate. After all, Kiffin doesn't sleep much, especially during weeks like the one leading into tonight's game at St. Louis.

    ``Around here, your motor is always running high,'' defensive backs coach Mike Tomlin said. ``But during weeks like this, when you're taking on the `Greatest Show on Turf,' it runs a little higher.

    ``It's only natural because it's always a playoff-like atmosphere when we face the Rams. You just can't help but get up a little more, so for Monte, it's a few more cups of coffee, a few more hours looking over tape each night.''

    The overtime and extra caffeine have paid dividends in the past. Since 1999, when the Rams' high-wire act first debuted, the Bucs have kept St. Louis from matching its gaudy average point output three times.

    Only three other teams - New Orleans, San Francisco and the New York Giants - can make that claim, but none of them have done it while twice playing on the Rams' turf, including once during an unforgettable playoff game.

    The date was Jan. 23, 2000. At stake was the opportunity to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XXXIV. Few gave the Bucs much of a chance. After all, the Rams had the homefield edge and all that offensive firepower.

    Through 16 regular-season games and one playoff game, they had produced an average of 33.8 points a game, never scoring any less than 21.

    Against Kiffin's defense, though, the Rams didn't reach the end zone until late in the fourth quarter and scored just 11 points - which was still enough to win the game.

    The victory, of course, launched the Rams toward their first Super Bowl title - they beat Tennessee, 23-16 - but it also launched a rivalry between the Bucs and Rams.

    During the years it has raged - this will be the fourth ``Monday Night Football'' meeting - it has been a classic matchup of offense vs. defense. ...
    -10-17-2004, 06:05 PM
  • DJRamFan
    [Bucs] Gruden Is Loud - With A Purpose
    by DJRamFan
    By KATHERINE SMITH [email protected]
    Published: Oct 16, 2004

    TAMPA - Tim Brown remembers Jon Gruden walking onto the field for his first Oakland practice in 1998.
    He was the youngest head coach in the league - and arguably the loudest. The yelling was constant, Brown recalls.

    ``I remember thinking, he's 34 or 35 years old and he's just trying to prove something,'' Brown said. ``But I realized quickly that that's how this guy is. It's hard to fake what he has. What he feels for this game, there's no way to fake it.''

    That passion for the game sometimes results in a barrage of yelling, to the point where Gruden can lose his voice. It happened in New Orleans on Sunday when four quarters of cheering, screaming and trying to be heard in a loud dome took its toll on Gruden's vocal cords.

    ``I try to be enthusiastic and to be enthusiastic, you have to be heard sometimes,'' Gruden said. ``When you're coaching three different quarterbacks and a rookie flanker and you're excited about what's going on here, you sometimes tend to overdo it. I try not to push it too far.''

    Gruden knows he has to be careful to protect his voice. He keeps throat spray on the sideline. Mark Arteaga, the Bucs director of football operations who has worked with Gruden since 1998, tries to get him to use lozenges.

    ``But he's so impatient, he chews them up and swallows them before they can take effect,'' Arteaga said. ``He's not a good patient. He doesn't slow down and he talks a lot. He'll get involved in just about every meeting, every practice, period. He's just nonstop, going and going and going. He leans on the Chloraseptic spray. Cherry is his favorite.''

    Nelson Castellano, an ear, nose and throat specialist in South Tampa, said a person who continually screams and yells could eventually push their voice box to the point where serious problems can occur.

    ``What happens when you lose your voice, it creates stress where swelling occurs,'' Castellano said. ``Most times, the swelling is temporary, but it can become permanent.''

    People with voice problems can develop nodules and polyps and even bleeding in the vocal cords, Castellano said, but for the most part the damage is not irreversible.

    ``If it continues to happen, however, at some point it can become an irreversible situation,'' he said. ``At some point, if you continue to lose your voice completely, it can become altered. Then that person would not be able to raise their voice at all.''

    There are days, some of the players agreed, they wish Gruden would lose his voice. Assistant coaches could use a break, too. Running backs coach Art Valero hasn't lost his voice since joining the Bucs in 2002, but his hearing takes a beating at times.

    ``The guys that are on the other side of...
    -10-16-2004, 04:07 PM
  • DJRamFan
    [Bucs] The present is Griese's, if only for one week
    by DJRamFan
    By GARY SHELTON, Times Sports Columnist
    Published October 11, 2004

    NEW ORLEANS - Yesterday belongs to someone else. Tomorrow has already been promised.

    All Brian Griese has is today.

    For him, for now, it is enough.

    He does not instill faith, the way an old starter does. He does not carry hope the way a young one does.

    All Griese provided was a victory.

    For the Bucs, for the time being, it was plenty.

    When it came to saving the day, was anyone looking toward Griese? When it came to a lifeguard dragging a season out of choppy water, did anyone look his direction?

    In a season that came down to a choice of Brad vs. Chris, he was the overlooked quarterback. No one pleaded his case. No one called his name. He was just another son of another quarterback-turned-analyst, another passer who was interesting enough to notice but not inviting enough to debate.

    Until Sunday, that is, when Griese quietly and efficiently dropped his name into the Bucs' quarterback debate.

    Griese came off the bench to win the game for the Bucs on Sunday. On a team that has been erratic, he provided efficiency. In a situation bordering on chaos, he supplied calm. He was precise, poised, polished. In other words, against the Saints, he out-Bradded Brad.

    Considering that Griese had been stuck between forlorn and forgotten, he had a pretty spiffy day.

    Who would have figured Griese would steal the show? Sunday was supposed to belong to Chris Simms, boy wonder. Griese was just another unpicked player in the Dating Game.

    When the Bucs benched Brad Johnson earlier in the week, they looked right past Griese. Why not? In his career, Griese has been called everything but special. In the game of Who's-Your-Daddy, you would have expected Phil Simms, the old Giant, to have had the warm father-son chat on Sunday evening. Instead the call went to Bob Griese, the old Dolphin.

    For 20 plays, Simms looked like exactly the right choice. Of the Bucs quarterbacks, Simms has the most voltage, and there is something to his play that seems to energize his team. He moved well in the pocket, and he threw fastballs.

    Then Simms was sacked, and the muscles in his left shoulder were twisted into braids. That was when Griese rose from the ashes and said hello. He hit 16 of 19 passes, and he controlled the game like Bobby Fischer at a chess board.

    And now for the big question:

    Who starts now?

    If you are Jon Gruden, the answer lies in Simms' sore shoulder. If Simms' shoulder isn't damaged, it's an easy decision. You made it last week.

    Provided Simms somehow wakes up over the next few mornings and, whillickers, his shoulder is all healed, then he should start against the Rams. None of his 20 snaps against the Saints were an argument...
    -10-11-2004, 02:18 PM
  • Nick
    McCardell to skip camp in protest
    by Nick
    Bucs Pro Bowler says he wants to be paid like the average No. 1 receiver.
    By ROGER MILLS, Times Staff Writer
    Published June 22, 2004

    TAMPA - He doesn't want to shatter the Bucs' salary cap. He isn't asking to be compensated like Terrell Owens, Marvin Harrison or Randy Moss.

    What Bucs receiver Keenan McCardell wants is to be paid close to the average of the league's No. 1 receivers.

    Now, he's about to make his point.

    After missing all 14 of the "voluntary" offseason team practices, McCardell said Monday he will not take part in the mandatory three-day minicamp that starts today. He said he will stay in Houston until the Bucs make him an offer he can't refuse.

    "I just want to be treated fairly," McCardell said from his Houston home. "When I signed (with the Bucs) it was to complement Keyshawn (Johnson), and even prior to his departure I was performing as a top receiver. And I'm still performing as a top receiver. I'm not trying to break the bank. It's fair for any employee in any line of work to get a raise when he gets a promotion or increased responsibility. ... That's fair."

    The veteran receiver, who has been silent about his contract situation since the end of the 2003 season, said he is making a stand based on his production and his work ethic.

    "I really think I'm a hard-working employee," he said. "I started from the bottom and worked my way to the top. I have never caused a problem in the locker room. I've been a consummate team player. I'm not trying to cash in on last year's season, I'm fighting for what's fair. I think the public would agree I was a Pro Bowl receiver and I deserve to be paid at least the average of the No. 1 receivers."

    McCardell, 34, has two years left on a four-year contract. He is due to earn $2.5-million this season and $2.75-million in his final year.

    McCardell's absence at this week's minicamp could cost him up to $1,000, the maximum fine allowed by the league's collective bargaining agreement. He could be fined $5,000 a day for any missed time at training camp, according to the CBA.

    "I understand that situation, I've been in the league long enough," said McCardell, entering his 13th season. "I'm fighting over a principle. What is fair and just, and sometimes you have to take some risks. Stand up for what you believe. ... I understand that there are negatives, including fines and other economic sanctions that go along with my situation, but I have to do what I know is in my heart."

    In keeping with team policy, Bucs general manager Bruce Allen does not comment on contract negotiations. McCardell's Las Vegas agent, Gary Uberstine, also wouldn't comment.

    Negotiations between Allen and Uberstine are ongoing with the hope of a resolution before July 30, when the...
    -06-22-2004, 07:44 AM
  • DJRamFan
    [Bucs] It's A Start
    by DJRamFan
    By ROY CUMMINGS [email protected]
    Published: Oct 11, 2004

    NEW ORLEANS - For the first time since December, a scoreboard clock wound down to zero with the Bucs holding a lead Sunday.
    You wouldn't have known it from walking through their locker room.

    The Bucs' 20-17 victory against the Saints produced the season's first collection of postgame smiles, but some frowns remained.

    ``It's hard to celebrate right now,'' linebacker Derrick Brooks said. ``There definitely are some heavy hearts in here.''

    The heaviest belonged to quarterback Chris Simms, who couldn't finish his first pro start after spraining his throwing shoulder on a first-quarter sack.

    As of late Sunday, no one was sure just when the left- handed Simms would be able to make his second pro start.

    Simms was saying he could return to face the Rams next Monday, but he still wasn't able to lift his left arm over his head when he said that.

    ``Do I think I'm going to be out a month? No, I don't think so,'' Simms said. ``With some heavy massage, I should be able to play next week.''

    Bucs coach Jon Gruden wasn't ready to rule Simms out of next week's game, either.

    ``He's day-to-day,'' Gruden said. ``That's really just about all I can say on the matter right now.''

    The good news is that X-rays came up negative. An MRI is scheduled for today to confirm the nature of the injury.

    The better news is that just about everything backup quarterback Brian Griese did after taking over for Simms was positive.

    In his first regular-season action as a Buc, Griese completed 16 of 19 passes for 194 yards and a touchdown and helped Tampa Bay (1-4) break a six-game losing streak. The Bucs won on the road for the first time since their last visit to New Orleans on Dec. 7.

    ``He did a heck of a job out there,'' Gruden said of Griese. ``He should be the story today.''

    He's certainly a big part of it. But so too is Jeff Gooch, the backup middle linebacker who did a credible job as a fill-in himself.

    Gooch replaced starter Shelton Quarles, who left the game in the first quarter with a quad strain, and led the defense with nine tackles.

    ``You really have to appreciate the work of guys like Brian Griese and Jeff Gooch,'' Brooks said. ``We had guys make some attitude plays today.''

    Cornerback Ronde Barber made one. He picked up a second-quarter Deuce McAllister fumble and carried it into the end zone for the Bucs' first touchdown.

    Fellow cornerback Brian Kelly, who picked off an Aaron Brooks pass to snuff out a late New Orleans drive, also had one of those plays. And so did running back Michael Pittman.

    On third-and-5 just before the two-minute warning, Pittman eluded three would-be...
    -10-11-2004, 02:09 PM