SR's Fab Five

June 29 - You've waited a while for this 2,500-word column filled with inside scoop. Here it is! Did Marvin Lewis badmouth Jon Gruden? And will Gruden extract revenge on Lewis' Redskins defense in the third preseason game? Do the Bucs still believe in QB Shaun King? When will the rookies be signed? How much did the Bucs pursue FS Rashidi Barnes, and will they sign CB Terrell Buckley? The answers to those questions plus more on CB Corey Chamblin, WRs Frank Murphy and Keith Poole in SR's Fab Five.

SR's Fab Five appears weekly on PewterReport.com
Copyright 2002 Pewter Report/PewterReport.com
This story is intended to be read only by PewterReport.com Club Insiders only and TheInsiders.com. Sharing of the Club content with non-subscribers of this service can result in cancellation of your subscription to the service and/or further actions by the publishers.

Here's five things that caught my interest this week:

FAB 1. A few SR's Fab Five installments ago, I talked about my desire to see the Bucs host the Washington Redskins in the third preseason game this year. My reasoning was the curiosity I have as to whether Steve Spurrier's offense will work in the NFL, and if it will work with his Gators reunion club he has chartered in the nation's capital. There will be a frenzy on talk radio and in the media as Spurrier loyalists will square off against Gruden and Bucs die-hards to see which offense is more prolific and which team actually wins the game.

But there is another storyline brewing that is much more compelling than the return of Spurrier to Florida and the return of former Bucs receivers Jacquez Green and Reidel Anthony to Tampa Bay.

Remember Marvin Lewis, the former Baltimore defensive coordinator who was supposed to become the next Buccaneers head coach? The man the Glazers spurned at the eleventh hour despite general manager Rich McKay's desire that he be hired and the fact that a press release had already been written (but not released) proclaiming him as Tony Dungy's successor?

Well after Lewis got jilted by the Glazers, he quickly signed on with Spurrier's Redskins and became the league's highest paid assistant coach. But he's still miffed after being passed over for the Bucs' head coaching job.

Lewis went off on the Glazers, and even Gruden, in a recent article in the Orlando Sentinel written by Bucs beat writer Chris Harry. Here are some of the key excerpts:

"(The Glazers) asked about the whole perception of the (Bill) Parcells thing because obviously they circumvented Rich and were listening to the wrong the people," Lewis told the Orlando Sentinel. "That's the problem sometimes with owners. They listen to all the outside influences and they don't have a feel for the game."

In the article, Lewis described the interview that took place between himself, the Glazers and McKay in Tysons Corner, Va. on February 7, the night before he was supposed to be announced as the Bucs' head coach. Five months later, Lewis still thinks it "served only as a favor to McKay," according to the Orlando Sentinel.

"The meeting was only to appease Rich so they could say, 'Well, we met with him, Rich. Now we go on,' " Lewis says. "The decision -- no question -- had already been made. One of [the Glazers] finally said to me, 'You should be very proud of what you'd accomplished in Baltimore. Good luck to you.' What they were actually trying to do is find out from me who the best coaches were in the NFL."

Lewis also told the Orlando Sentinel that the Glazers asked about several assistants, several of whom were apparently contacted in the coming weeks as the Bucs ownership focused on trading for Oakland head coach Jon Gruden, who was hired on February 18.

"[The Glazers] don't understand the problems they'd had with their players -- and will have -- are the same problems the Raiders had," Lewis told the Orlando Sentinel. "And those guys no longer play for the Raiders. Jon hasn't dealt with those problems. They get suspended, they move on. The same things are going to happen. He's not done the things a head coach has to do. They wanted to hire an offensive coordinator, but they don't understand what a head coach does."

The Orlando Sentinel sought a reply from Gruden and the Glazers concerning Lewis' comments.

"I don't even know what he's talking about. Hopefully, somebody does," Gruden said. The Glazers declined comment.

It's a safe bet that Lewis is still not over his rejection and will want to extract some revenge on the Buccaneers -- even if it is a preseason game. The great thing about this game is that it is the third preseason game on the schedule, which typically means that the starters for both teams should play the entire first half and into the third quarter. The plot thickens as Lewis' defense will square off against Gruden's offense.

Even though it is only the preseason, the Redskins, who think they will be in the hunt for the NFC title this year, will want to send a message to the Bucs that they'll be a force to be reckoned with. Lewis will want to send a message to the Glazers and Gruden that he should have gotten the head coaching job. Expect to see a fair amount of blitzes and chippy play from Lewis' defense, even though it's only an exhibition game.

Bucs fans should also expect to see Gruden try to light up Lewis' defense the same way he did Monte Kiffin's when Gruden's Raiders shredded the Bucs defense in a 45-0 thrashing in Oakland in 1999. Kiffin had talked some trash to Gruden, his good friend and beach bungalow neighbor, the summer prior to the Bucs-Raiders game. With Lewis talking trash about the Bucs and Gruden, it might be safe to assume that the freckled, blond-haired coach will take it personally. It's time for Chucky to come out and play.

The mainstream media and talk radio will pit the Bucs - Redskins contest as a matchup between Spurrier's offense and Gruden's offense. But you, the savvy Bucs fan and PewterReport.com Insider, will understand that the more compelling storyline is actually Lewis' defense versus Gruden's offense. Besides, offenses never play against each other anyway.

FAB 2. Earlier in the spring I talked about how Shaun King's chances of rising up the depth chart would be hindered by the practice environment of training camp. Yesterday I talked with a high ranking Bucs official who agreed with me and took it a step further to say that King could very well come out of the preseason as the backup or even the starter.

Not only is King in fantastic shape, which has really pleased the front office, but he has become a more patient and accurate thrower. He still has some inconsistency to overcome as he learns Gruden's new system and still has some lows, but when he has his highs -- they've never been higher.

But King is at his best showing off his intangibles and special playmaking ability in a game setting. But so many times a play will be whistled dead in practice when a defensive linemen even comes close to touching a quarterback. That robs King of the chance to make a special play.

Fans will remember two outstanding plays from King during the 2000 season against Washington and St. Louis. In the fourth quarter of the Redskins game, King had the ball stripped from his hands in the pocket, but managed to recover the fumble, elude the rush, roll to his left and heave a bomb downfield to a wide open Reidel Anthony for a touchdown.

Against the Rams in the 38-35 epic win on Monday Night Football at Raymond James Stadium, King was lateralled the ball from Warrick Dunn way behind the line of scrimmage, but managed to run about 30 yards for a 19-yard gain. He was hit out of bounds on the sidelines, which drew a 15-yard penalty and kept the game-winning drive alive in the fourth quarter.

King won't have the opportunity to display those kind of skills in practice because of the quick whistle. He will have to work hard in the first two weeks of training camp to really win the No. 2 quarterback role, which will likely mean more playing series in the preseason where he'll have to shine. Yes, Rob Johnson has been looking good, but don't count King out yet. The Bucs front office, which has a second-round draft pick invested in him, sure isn't.

FAB 3. Speaking of draft picks, the Bucs should have no problem signing their draft selections this season. Summer can be a stressful time for general managers who must battle agents to sign first-round draft picks. But Bucs G.M. Rich McKay should have an uneventful summer without having to worry about signing a first- or second-round pick.

By trading away the team's two top picks to Oakland for the rights to head coach Jon Gruden, McKay traded away some headaches. Our insiders over at One Buc Place said the Bucs will start negotiating with agents in mid-July and fully anticipate all of their rookies from the 2002 draft class to be signed, sealed and delivered by training camp.

For picks in the third round and lower, teams will generally give a small percentage raise over last year's picks' salaries and signing bonuses. One thing that could hinder the signing of the draft picks is the fact that the Bucs paid more in signing bonus money for their undrafted free agents than they ever have. Miami cornerback Markese Fitzgerald and Memphis safety Glenn Sumter received the biggest payouts. As a result, there is not as much room left in the rookie payout pool.

FAB 4. The Buccaneers could have likely added NFL Europe star safety Rashidi Barnes to their roster this week, but were upfront with agent Peter Shaffer about Barnes' uphill battle to make the roster. Barnes wanted to play for the Bucs, but with Dexter Jackson, John Howell and fifth-round draft pick Jermaine Phillips already vying for the free safety spot, Barnes would have had to have one heckuva training camp, which would be nearly impossible considering he missed all three mini-camps and would need significant time to learn the Bucs defense. Barnes wound up signing with the Dallas Cowboys instead.

The good sportsmanship on the Bucs' behalf will definitely pay off down the road. Shaffer also represents Jackson and Howell and by not burning Barnes (and Shaffer) by promising him a great shot at making the roster and then cutting him in August, the Bucs front office's reputation will be in great standing if Shaffer comes calling for contract extensions for Jackson next year or Howell a few years down the road. Negotiations may run smoothly and pain-free.

General manager Rich McKay and the Bucs' brass bend over backwards in dealing with agents to maintain good relations. They don't burn bridges with agents which always encourages them to have their free agent clients put Tampa Bay on their wish lists. Free agents want to sign with the Bucs because of the winning tradition, the stadium, the coaching staff and the ownership. Agents like doing business with the Bucs because their clients will be treated and paid fairly and the agents themselves will be treated with respect and goodwill.

By being honest with Shaffer about Barnes, Shaffer may direct a highly sought-after undrafted free agent towards the Bucs as opposed to another team in the frenzied hours following next year's NFL Draft. That's the Tampa Bay way of doing things.

FAB 5. I've tried to stick to a schedule as it pertains to the on-line publication of this column, but sometimes it just depends on when I can get ahold of some of my contacts at One Buccaneer Place. Sometimes the SR's Fab Five will come out once every seven days. Sometimes it may be once about every 10 days, but there will always be four per month -- guaranteed. A lot of my contacts have been out of town on vacation, but towards the end of the week I was able to get ahold of some of them to file this Insider report and another SR's Fab Five, which will be unveiled early next week.

Here's some scoop that you won't find anywhere else, and this is of course why you chose to have a subscription to the PewterReport.com Club Insider:

- The Bucs have some moderate interest in free agent cornerback Terrell Buckley, but believe that Miami might be his top choice. Buckley has had conversations with Tampa Bay and Detroit, and visited Miami, where he has already played for the Dolphins during his NFL career. Expect the Bucs' chances of signing Buckley to be no greater than 50 percent. Buckley would likely compete with second-year corners Dwight Smith and Corey Chamblin for a role in the nickel or dime defense.

- Speaking of Corey Chamblin, the former Tennessee Tech star has been turning heads this spring with his anticipation, quickness and closing speed. Chamblin took advantage of the extra reps during the second mini-camp that he received due to Brian Kelly's broken hand and Smith's constant cramping. He's playing with confidence after quickly learning the Bucs defense, and he made more plays on the ball as the offseason workouts progressed. A few years ago we told Bucs fans to keep an eye on undrafted free agent tight end Todd Yoder, who was looking better than fifth-round draft pick James Whalen in mini-camp. We forecasted him making the team and have the same feelings about Chamblin. He's definitely one to watch during training camp.

- Speaking of Yoder, another newcomer who is impressing is seventh-round draft pick Tracey Wistrom, who was a star tight end at Nebraska. Wistrom had a good third mini-camp and is definitely in the thick of battle for the third tight end spot with Yoder and Mike Roberg. Damian Vaughn was only a backup in NFL Europe and likely won't factor in to the mix in training camp.

- It's only a matter of time before the Bucs will cut wide receiver Keith Poole. Poole hasn't overcome the pulled hamstring that he suffered during the first mini-camp. He hasn't been able to stay healthy during his pro career and might be better served taking a full year off and totally healing his body. That seems to have worked for receiver E.G. Green who couldn't stay healthy with the Indianapolis Colts. Green took the year off and has completed a healthy offseason in Tampa Bay. Receiver Joe Jurevicius has already taken Poole's number 83 jersey.

- New Bucs wide receiver Keenan McCardell has purchased the number 87 jersey from good friend Frank Murphy, who will now occupy the same number 82 jersey as Darryl Daniel does. There was some financial consideration that made Murphy a wealthier man, but I'm not at liberty to discuss the figures. McCardell has sort of taken Murphy, whom he knows from Jacksonville (Murphy's hometown), under his wing and has been impressed with Murphy's athletic ability. McCardell, who was a low-round draft pick out of UNLV, is a self-made star due to his tremendous work ethic, which allowed him to rise up the ranks to become a starter for Cleveland and Jacksonville. Murphy's work ethic is in the same vein, which McCardell has admired.


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Copyright 2002 Pewter Report/PewterReport.com

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