Matthews Happy To Be Out Of Washington, In Tampa

March 27 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Shane Matthews is busy digesting his new playbook and participating in voluntary workouts at One Buccaneer Place. The former Florida Gators signal-caller says he turned down more lucrative offers to be part of a team that has a legitimate shot at winning a championship. Matthews is happy to be out of Washington, but he's even happier to to be in Tampa playing for Jon Gruden, the coach he says is the best in the business.

There are plenty of players who want to play for a Super Bowl championship team, and Shane Matthews was one of them.

That's why the 10-year veteran quarterback turned down more lucrative contract offers, one of which was from the Minnesota Vikings, and signed a one-year contract worth near the league minimum with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on March 14.

"Much better". That's how Matthews described the other contract offers he received, but the former Florida Gators signal-caller said he had plenty of incentive to sign with the Bucs.

"I'm at the point in my career where I'm not worried about money," said Matthews, "It's nice to be closer to home and it's nice to be playing for a team that has a chance to win it all. That's basically what I was looking for."

Intrigued by the idea of being reunited with Steve Spurrier, Matthews signed with the Redskins last year. But according to Matthews, who started seven of the eight games he played in as a Redskin, the experience of playing for his former college coach didn't live up to his expectations.

"I thought it was going to be a better than it was," Matthews said of his experience with the 7-9 Redskins. "(Coach Spurrier) learned a lot and I think a lot of his coaches learned the NFL is totally different than the college game. In hindsight, I can say I shouldn't have gone there, but it's over with and done, and I learned a lot. It's just time to move on."

Matthews didn't jump on the Tampa Bay bandwagon. In fact, he's wanted to play for Bucs for quite some time. Even former Bucs head coach Tony Dungy's regime expressed interest in acquiring Matthews via free agency during the 2001 offseason, but it didn't come to fruition because the Bucs signed free-agent quarterbacks Brad Johnson and Ryan Leaf.

For Matthews, joining the Bucs late was better than never at all.

"I'm excited," said Matthews. "I've been wanting to play here for quite a long time. The exciting thing for me is I'm actually going to have a chance to play for a team that has a chance of going a real long way. Hopefully I can help whenever needed."

Matthews, 32, was brought to Tampa to back up starting QB Brad Johnson. He will compete for the No. 2 spot with first-year QB Greg Zolman and possibly QB Jim Miller, who he played with in Chicago. Bucs free-agent QB Shaun King might also find himself in the mix.

Before he landed in Washington last season, Matthews spent seven seasons with the Chicago Bears (1993-96, 1999-01) and two seasons with the Carolina Panthers (1997-98).

Matthews threw just 17 passes in his first six seasons in the NFL. But he's since started 22 of the 28 games he has played in. He's completed 58.3 percent of his pass attempts and he's thrown for 4,712 yards, 30 touchdowns and 24 interceptions.

When his tenure in Washington was over, Matthews was intrigued by another opportunity -- playing for Bucs head coach Jon Gruden.

"I really wanted to play for Jon Gruden," said Matthews. "He's the best coach there is out there. He's very detail-oriented and he gets you extremely well prepared on game day. As a quarterback, you like that. I just like the relationship he has with his players. Hopefully one day I'll get into coaching, so why not learn from the best?"

Matthews said he's comfortable with his role as a Buc.

"I've had my chances (as a starter) but freak injuries here and there have knocked me out," said Matthews. "I played well at times and I've played bad at times, but I've been pretty consistent. Brad Johnson is the guy down here, and he had a phenomenal year here last year. Being the backup quarterback, you have to prepare every week as if you're going to play and you've got to help your team if you're called on."

Matthews, who is playing for his fourth team in 10 seasons, signed with the Bucs just in time to attend Gruden's three-day quarterback orientation a few weeks ago. Matthews is a seasoned veteran in terms of playing time in West Coast offenses, and while it will take time to learn, Matthews is confident he'll digest and execute his new head coach's playbook.

"A lot of it was very familiar to me," Matthews said of the information presented at Gruden's quarterback orientation. "There were some things that are just going to take time to learn, like the terminology. I've called one play a certain way for eight years and now I have to just relearn it. I just have to kind of put all of the stuff I've learned out of my mind and reprogram my mind. It's kind of a fresh start and I'm looking forward to it.

"I've played in the West Coast offense for eight years, and they get extremely wordy," said Matthews. "But all you really have to do is just spit the plays out and everybody has to pay attention and do what's said. It's basically memorizing things and I'm pretty good at that."

The 6-foot-3, 196-pound Matthews also said he's looking forward to stepping out onto the practice field with Tampa Bay's receiving corps, who are regarded as some of the biggest targets in the NFL.

"I haven't practiced one day with them yet, but they're obviously big receivers," said Matthews. "I don't think I've ever thrown to receivers this big. That obviously makes it a lot easier on the quarterback. I'm looking forward to getting out here once the minii-camps get started and seeing what it's all about."

Matthews will see action with his new teammates when Tampa Bay holds its first offseason mini-camp, which is tentatively scheduled for the weekend after the April 26-27 NFL Draft.


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