Ruskell To Stay In Tampa Bay

March 22 - Buccaneers director of player personnel Tim Ruskell will stay in Tampa Bay instead of taking the Atlanta Falcons general manager position. Ruskell and Falcons owner Arthur Blank agreed to discontinue discussions about bringing Ruskell to Atlanta until after the 2002 NFL Draft.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers director of player personnel Tim Ruskell won't become Atlanta's new general manager, at least not before the 2002 NFL Draft, which will be held on April 20-21. The Falcons released a statement Friday afternoon from new owner Arthur Blank discussing Ruskell and Atlanta's lengthy search for a general manager:

With the all consuming and critical draft preparations heightening, Atlanta Falcons chairman, president and CEO Arthur Blank and Tampa Bay Buccaneers director of player personnel Tim Ruskell today reached a mutual agreement to discontinue discussions regarding Ruskell potentially moving to the Falcons as general manager.

"Our experience with Tim has been tremendous. He is talented, personable and highly regarded," Blank said. "However, both organizations need to focus their attention right now on preparing for the draft, so we made the decision to end our talks with Tim and to reassess the Falcons search activities after the draft is complete."

"I appreciate Arthur's interest in me and have enjoyed all of our discussions," Ruskell said. "I think this is the right decision for both of us and our organizations. The Glazers, Rich McKay, Jon Gruden, and all of our people have been supportive. I am now eager to totally focus on the tasks at hand on behalf of the Buccaneers."

The statement from Blank and the Falcons apparently leaves the door open for Ruskell, who has already interviewed twice with Blank, to again be considered after the NFL Draft concludes. With the Bucs and Falcons in the same division, the newly created NFC South, it would have been extremely awkward for Ruskell to leave Tampa Bay with less than one month to go before the draft and join a division rival.

The Chicago Bears tabbed Ruskell's predecessor, Jerry Angelo, to become their general manager last spring, but did so after the 2001 draft.

Blank originally wanted McKay, Tampa Bay's general manager, to become the Falcons' G.M. McKay interviewed with Atlanta on February 14, but decided to accept a six-year deal to stay in Tampa after the Bucs hired Gruden to be the team's new head coach.

Ruskell was deemed to be Blank's next choice, but the new Falcons owner decided to make a run at former Green Bay Packers general manager Ron Wolf first. But Wolf opted to stay in retirement, which then made Ruskell the front-runner again.

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