The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the football field as a team Friday for the team's first mini-camp workout of the offseason. It was the first time the Bucs were on the field together as a team since they won Super Bowl XXXVII last January.
While the team is looking forward to receiving its championship rings on June 14, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said it's time to turn the page on last season and focus on trying to repeat.
"We're not talking about the past," said Gruden. "We're going to get fitted for rings and get a nice ring at some point here this spring. We're really thrilled about that, but I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about the past. It's ancient history now and we have a long way to go to repeat as a champion."
MISSING IN ACTION:
With the exception of its NFL Europe players, all but one Bucs player attended the first practice of Tampa Bay's three-day mini-camp session Friday.
Despite suffering from a virus of some sort, Bucs Pro Bowl fullback Mike Alstott managed to make it to One Buccaneer Place on Friday morning. But the A-Train didn't make it onto the practice field.
"We excused Mike Alstott," said Gruden. "He has a virus of some kind, bronchitis is what we think it is. He was here this morning but we sent him home."
Bucs quarterback Jim Miller (shoulder) and linebacker Ryan Nece (knee) were in attendance, but they did not participate in either one of Friday's practices.
Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp was on the field for the afternoon practice, but he did not participate. Sapp sat out of the afternoon practice while Chuck Darby, who was held out of the morning session, filled in at under tackle.
"We rotated some of our inside players (such as Anthony) McFarland and Sapp," said Gruden. "Chartric Darby went this afternoon but didn't go this morning. We feel like it's the right thing to do to let some of these guys that are coming off injuries to go one-a-days at this time."
BRAD JOHNSON, SAPP DISCUSS CONTRACT SITUATIONS:
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be facing the possibility of two of its starters holding out for new contracts when training camp begins on July 18.
Or maybe not.
No one knows for sure, but what we do know is there seems to be some unfinished business regarding the contracts of quarterback Brad Johnson and defensive tackle Warren Sapp.
Johnson, who has a $6.8 million cap value this year and has three more years remaining on his contract, might still be disgruntled with the Buccaneers because of their blown attempt to rework his deal last March. The team attempted to create about $4.5 million in cap room by reworking Johnson's deal, but negotiations hit a wall after their proposal excluded $1.5 million of guaranteed money in 2004 from Johnson's current contract.
Johnson's answer to a question regarding his contract suggested the issue has not been completely resolved.
"I'm sure there's been a lot of things said, and when it's time to do or say the appropriate thing for the situation that's called upon, then I'll do so," Johnson said Friday. "Right now is not really the time or place to bring those discussions up."
Sapp is in the final year of his contract and is scheduled to make $6.6 million. A recent newspaper report suggested Sapp would not hold out of training camp for a new contract, but on Friday, No. 99 would not guarantee his attendance during training camp.
"I don't discuss that," Sapp said when asked about his attendance for July's training camp. "I haven't even talked to (agent) Drew (Rosenhaus) about that, because we don't have anything to talk about.
"If you don't get an offer, you have nothing to talk about, do you? I've got a contract. And until I hear something different from what's going on, there's no telling what might go on."
Rosenhaus told a local newspaper last year that he was seeking a new contract for his client, but Bucs general manager Rich McKay said the team planned on letting Sapp play out his contract before they'd discuss the possibility of a new one.
Despite making DE Simeon Rice the highest-paid defender in the NFL earlier in the offseason, the Bucs still hope they'll find a way to have Sapp finish his career in Tampa. But Sapp said the team hasn't expressed those wishes to him.
"I never heard that,'' Sapp said. "I have no crystal ball. This ain't Miss Cleo, and Miss Cleo was a fraud, so I'm going to come out here and do what Jon (Gruden) asks me to do. And if management says I'm no longer a commodity for this team, then that's the way I have to look at it. That's the life. That's the business. I can't control something like that."
Former New England Patriots and current Southern California head coach Pete Carroll attended both of Tampa Bay's mini-camp sessions Friday.
BUCS WELCOME DRAFT PICKS:
All six of Tampa Bay's 2003 draft picks were in attendance Friday.
Third-round pick Chris Simms received the most attention of the bunch, but Gruden said the group as a whole played well for their first day in the NFL.
"Well, it's real early to tell," Gruden said when asked about the team's draft picks. "We like the look of our prospects. The three young offensive linemen handled themselves well today. Chris Simms is just getting to know the snap count and where to turn after he gets it, but he's a bright prospect. He's got size, he's got intangibles, he's got a nice arm. Dwayne White is a guy that we think it is going to be a very good football player. He's got to get caught up with what our speed is like and how to compete at the highest level, and we think he'll be able to do that. I didn't see a lot of Torrie Cox today but I'm sure I will this afternoon. Early indications are good."
BUCS GO CAMPING ON JULY 18:
Sources close to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers organization have confirmed that the team's 2003 training camp in Orlando is tentatively slated to begin on July 18.