Bucs News And Notes

March 19 - Here's the latest news and notes regarding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, including Tim Ruskell possibly heading to Atlanta to become the team's general manager, the latest on the visit of RB Michael Pittman, Bucs training camp and more.

RUSKELL TO ATLANTA?: With former Green Bay Packers general manager Ron Wolf abruptly withdrawing his name for Atlanta's G.M. position, Bucs director of player personnel, Tim Ruskell, has emerged as the lead candidate for the position. Ruskell, who was promoted from director of college scouting to his current post following Jerry Angelo's departure last spring to become Chicago's general manager, has already had two meetings with new Falcons owner Arthur Blank.

Blank and Ruskell may meet one more time or Blank may just hire Ruskell for the general manager duties due to the fact that the NFL Draft is just four weeks away.

The two likely candidates to replace Ruskell are Ruston Webster, the Bucs' director of college scouting, and Mark Dominik, the team's director of pro personnel. But Webster has only been in the Bucs' front office for one year after spending over a decade as a top regional scout. Dominik is only 30 and although he has been with the Bucs since 1995, he has only been at his current position for less than two years.

Indications are that Ruskell's duties will simply be split up between Webster, Dominik and general manager Rich McKay, who was once a candidate for the Falcons' G.M. job.

PITTMAN VISITS: As Buccaneer Magazine first reported on March 14, free agent running back Michael Pittman (Arizona) paid the Bucs a visit yesterday. Pittman, 26, was not offered a contract by the Bucs who are considering several candidates to replace Warrick Dunn, who signed a lucrative contract with Atlanta last week.

Although the team met with Robert Holcombe (St. Louis) on Monday and has interest in Dorsey Levens (Green Bay), Lamar Smith (Miami) and perhaps Ricky Watters (Seattle), Pittman is likely the front-runner due to his age, production and the ability to be a feature back and a receiver out of the backfield.

SPIRES CLOSE TO SIGNING?: The former Cleveland Browns and New England Patriots defensive end paid a trip to One Buc Place last week and there was mutual interest during the visit. Spires is basically a clone of Steve White, who left Tampa Bay to sign with the New York Jets three weeks ago.

Spires would compete with Ellis Wyms to be the backup defensive end behind Marcus Jones and Simeon Rice. The signing of a running back or wide receiver is the Bucs' first priority, but if Spires' agent, David Levine and Tampa Bay can strike a quick, cost-effective deal, he could join the team soon.

MORE VISITS: Free agent receiver Johnnie Morton will visit the Bucs on Friday. Morton was released last week from Detroit in a salary cap move.

The 30-year old receiver is a proven performer who has great hands and big play ability. He'll also likely command a higher salary than former teammate, Germane Crowell, who visited Tampa Bay last Friday, as Buccaneer Magazine first reported. The Bucs are looking for a No. 2 receiver to compliment Pro Bowler Keyshawn Johnson.

GOING TO DISNEY WORLD?: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are nearing a deal to move their training camp from the University of Tampa to the Disney Sports Complex in Orlando. The decision to move training camp 75 miles east was prompted due to construction at the university, which has been the team's summer training complex for over 10 years.

A formal announcement could come as early as this week. The Bucs also considered the IMG Sports Academy in Bradenton and St. Leo College in Pasco County.

The Bucs are honing in on a site for their new team headquarters. The location is at the end of Fletcher Avenue just east of I-75 in northern Hillsborough County.


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