Gruden Addresses RT Walker's Post-Game Comments

September 9 – Tampa Bay right tackle Kenyatta Walker was one of eight Buccaneers inactive for Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints. Walker wasn't happy with Bucs head coach Jon Gruden's decision to keep him inactive and he expressed his frustration to the media on Sunday night. Gruden addressed Walker and his comments on Monday morning and said the second-year tackle was still a backup to Cornell Green.

Tampa Bay second-year tackle Kenyatta Walker wasn't pleased when the team demoted him and promoted Cornell Green to the starting right tackle position shortly after the Bucs' preseason finale against Houston. Walker was told he'd have to earn the starting job back in practice last week, but he apparently didn't come close to doing that. Not only did he not beat Green out for the starting position, but Gruden inactivated him for Sunday's game against New Orleans. Needless to say, this didn't sit well with Walker, who sounded off about it after Sunday's game.

"It was disappointing. It was bull(expletive)," Walker said of Gruden's decision to inactivate for Sunday's game. "It's very disappointing. I think how it was done was wrong. But that's not the point. We lost the game tonight."

Walker watched helplessly from the sideline as Tampa Bay's offensive line failed to provide Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson with time to throw throughout the entire game.

"I'm not going to say the offensive line played bad," said Walker. "I'm not going to say the offense played bad. It's a team loss. I'm not pointing no fingers. I'm not going to say if I was in there it would have been different.

"They've got bigger problems than Kenyatta Walker."

Gruden and Bucs offensive line coach Bill Muir told Walker he'd be given a chance to recapture his starting job in practice last week, and although he wasn't handed back the starting job, Walker felt the Bucs told him one thing and did another.

"We lost a game tonight, and apparently it doesn't matter what I do, because I didn't even dress out," said Walker. "It's disappointing when people feed you a lot of bull(explective) and then stab you in the back."

It didn't take long for Gruden to read and/or hear Walker's post-game comments. In fact, Tampa Bay's head coach talked with Walker on Monday morning before he addressed the media at a press conference.

"I talked to Kenyatta this morning and I understand his frustration," said Gruden. "All I can say is as long as I'm head coach here, we're going to base everything on performance. We're going to do whatever we feel is in the best interest in our football team. I'm disappointed he feels that way. That's been addressed. I just want Kenyatta Walker to concentrate on playing right tackle and I'm not going to make a bigger deal out of this than I think it is. That issue is closed and we've got to move on. We're in this together. Bill Muir, myself and Kenyatta Walker plan on doing what we can do to get him (Walker) ready to play."

Gruden said Monday morning that Walker still will be a backup to Green until he can show the team he consistently perform well at right tackle.

"Right now, he (Walke) is the backup right tackle," said Gruden. "He'll compete for that job again this week. We're going to keep a close eye on this situation. But we're basing everything that happens here on performance. We're not playing head games with anyone. Until we see a polished right tackle and a guy that we see as the best play at that position, we're going to continue to go with Cornell Green. But we expect Kenyatta to come out on the practice field and compete and hopefully regain that status sometime soon.

"I think his instincts at the right tackle position need some time. I realize he's a first-round pick. He's a local guy. At the same time, his instincts and overall aptitude at this position need a little time. Until we feel like that's resolved, we're going to continue to play Cornell Green. I don't think Cornell Green is going to give in or give up, either."

As for Green, Gruden was somewhat pleased with his performance against the Saints. It was Green's first start as a pro.

"He (Green) did some good things," said Gruden. "He had some breakdowns along the way. He handled himself and he competed. His pass protection was pretty good when he was one-on-one. But there's still some sodalities in his game that's he's obviously got to improve upon. I think he will. Hopefully Kenyatta can say the same this weekend. Pretty soon we'll be much better collectively at that position."

What does the future hold for Tampa Bay's 2001 first round draft pick? No one can be certain, but Gruden said the Bucs have a plan for him.

"We have a plan for Kenyatta Walker," said Gruden. "No one has seen it yet, but we're not ready to show you."

Whether that plan will be executed this season or the next remains to be seen.

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