Escape From New York?

January 17 - Buccaneer Magazine has learned that a tenuous contract situation with the Jets, harsh treatment from the New York press and Bill Parcells' possible emergence as the head coach of the Buccaneers could lure quarterback Vinny Testaverde to Tampa Bay - the place where his career started 16 years ago.

Could Vinny Testaverde return to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002? With the Bucs expected to somewhat resemble a southern version of the New York Jets this year if Bill Parcells is hired as head coach, the Bucs' No. 1 draft pick in 1987 may join the rest of Parcells' cronies and follow the Tuna to Tampa.

Testaverde's agent told Buccaneer Magazine that Testaverde enjoyed playing for Parcells in the past and would certainly consider playing for him in the future. He also indicated that Testaverde wouldn't oppose returning to Tampa where he was the Buccaneers' beleaguered quarterback from 1987-92.

Testaverde played under Parcells in 1998-99 and enjoyed his best season in '98 when he completed 61.5 percent of his passes for 3,256 yards with a career-high 29 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Testaverde made the Pro Bowl that season and had a career-high quarterback rating of 101.6. The next year was a disaster for Testaverde and the Jets as he ruptured his Achilles' tendon in the season opener and missed the rest of the season. The Jets finished 8-8 after Ray Lucas took over for Rick Mirer at midseason.

Testaverde is coming off a year in 2001 in which he completed 59 percent of his passes for 2,752 yards with 15 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. The former Bucs quarterback who will be entering his 16th NFL season in 2002, is coming off a strong playoff showing in which he threw three touchdowns and no interceptions against Oakland in New York's wild card loss last week.

But Testaverde's contract calls for a $9 million roster bonus in June and the cap-strapped Jets might balk at keeping him and paying that hefty sum, especially with former first-round pick Chad Pennington waiting in the wings.

Testaverde was unhappy with the way he was treated by the New York press after he blamed offensive coordinator Paul Hackett for poor clock management in an upset home loss to Buffalo, which nearly cost the Jets a playoff spot.

Sources close to the situation indicate that Testaverde may want out of New York after facing a week's worth of unbelievably harsh criticism only to see the same media that trashed him two weeks ago clamor for him to re-structure his contract with New York so that he could remain a Jet after his three-touchdown performance against Oakland.

If Testaverde refuses to re-structure his contract and is released by the Jets, he could re-unite with Parcells and Dan Henning, who is rumored to be Parcells' offensive coordinator in Tampa Bay. Henning was Testaverde's quarterbacks coach in New York from 1998-99 and his offensive coordinator in 2000. Bucs receiver Keyshawn Johnson was Testaverde's favorite target in '98, hauling in 83 catches for 1,131 yards and a career-high 10 touchdowns.

With current Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson coming off a four-interception performance in Tampa Bay's 31-9 playoff loss at Philadelphia, his status as the starter might become an issue if Parcells lures Testaverde to Tampa Bay. But because Johnson is already on the Bucs' books with a $6.8 million cap value in 2002, Testaverde would have to sign a cap-friendly contract better suited for a No. 2 quarterback.


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