Bucs tight end Rickey Dudley is happy to have been reunited with Bucs head coach Jon Gruden, who he played under for three seasons in Oakland. But some eyebrows were raised when Dudley and Gruden decided to reunite. Some thought both men didn't get along in Oakland, but Dudley said Wednesday that perception was created by the media and was a false one.
"The perception was that (Gruden) and I didn't get along," said Dudley. "So I think it shocked a lot of people that we were reunited."
While the perception might have been wrong, Dudley told the Tribune Chronicle last April that he didn't feel Gruden used him correctly at times during his last season with Oakland, when his catch total dropped from 39 (1999) to 29 (2000) after catching a career-high 49 passes in 1997.
"You started the week with a lot of plays in the game plan, and by the end of the week you wouldn't have that many," Dudley told the Tribune Chronicle. "That can go hand-in-hand with different situations. With different teams and different situations, you're not always going to get the ball. I didn't expect to get the ball every play, but there were times when I didn't think I was properly utilized."
Dudley told PewterReport.com on Wednesday that he talked with Gruden about that issue and some others before agreeing to sign a one-year contract with Tampa Bay on Tuesday.
"I think I was pretty much basing that (comment) on my fifth and last year with the Raiders," Dudley said. "I only had 29 catches that year whereas in my previous two years I had 40-plus catches. I was really basing that (comment) upon that. When the opportunity was there, I felt Gruden didn't use me well in my last year. I addressed it with him and we talked about some things and I think we ironed out what we needed to."
Under Gruden, Dudley hauled in 104 passes for 1,454 yards and 18 touchdowns. What did Gruden do to help Dudley produce those types of numbers?
"I have to copy Keyshawn's slogan -- he got me the ball," said Dudley. "He (Gruden) had us do a lot of moving down the field. Once he got me the ball I was able to do a lot of running after the catch. The opportunity to get the ball was really what I wanted."
Although he signed with the team on Tuesday, Dudley feels he can make an impact on the Bucs' offense as early as Monday night due to his familiarity with Gruden's system.
"I don't think it's too soon," Dudley said of making an impact on Monday night. "I'm not saying it's too soon and I don't think (Jon) Gruden is saying it's too soon. We're going out and approaching this like we have to make some things happen on Monday.
"I plan on coming in and playing right away. I think Ken (Dilger) and I will be a pretty good combination."
The Tampa Bay players think Dudley can come in and help the Bucs' offense, which has been somewhat inconsistent this season and is currently ranked 20th overall in the league (24th rushing, 13th passing).
"(Dudley) is very familiar with this defense," said Dilger. "He's had a lot of success in this offense under Gruden. "It adds another veteran to the mix and I think any time you get a lot of tight ends like that, it should help out."
Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson agreed.
"Rickey (Dudley) has obviously been in this system before out in Oakland," said QB Brad Johnson. "He was out there in the walk through today and he hasn't missed a beat. He's a big target for us and he's a physical tight end. He'll get some playing time this week and I'm sure he'll make some plays for us sometime down the line."
After Cleveland released Dudley on Sept. 1, he received several phone calls from teams interested in obtaining his services, but the Bucs, who have not been pleased with the play from their backup tight ends, made a big push to sign Dudley this week.
"We'll see what happens," Gruden said when asked if he'd keep four tight ends on his 53-man roster. "I've never had four tight ends on a roster. We like Ken Dilger tremendously and we're hoping Todd Yoder will continue to play well on special teams. We'd like to see Marco Battaglia play more and play better when he does. But the big thing is Rickey Dudley is a guy that we've had our eyes on the last 10 days or so. We looked at him and liked his workout. Now we'll see if we can get the Batmobile going again. We're going to see if we can get him out of the shock and get him running again."
BUCS WON'T READ TOO MUCH INTO RAMS' 0-2 RECORD:
Are the Rams winless or are they undefeated? The stat books indicate the Rams are 0-2 this season, but you wouldn't know it after hearing the Tampa Bay players talk about St. Louis on Wednesday. Sure, the Bucs know the Rams are 0-2 on the season, but they're preparing for the Rams as if they were undefeated.
"They're a very dangerous team," said Bucs tight end Ken Dilger. "We're treating them like they're 2-0. It's a big game for us. We need to get off to a 2-1 start."
The Bucs realize they can put the Rams into a deep hole with a win on Monday night at Raymond James Stadium, and they plan on capitalizing on the opportunity.
"You can't let anyone off of the mat," said Tampa Bay quarterback Brad Johnson. "It doesn't matter who they are, what time of year it is, you don't feel sorry for anyone. They have a bunch of champions over there. They have some of the best players in the league and they just haven't come away with some wins. They're playing good. They just had a couple of plays get away from them. If they could convert a couple of fourth down conversions, they'd probably be 2-0."
St. Louis' defense ranked second in the NFL last season, but is currently ranked 17th and has given up an average of 342.5 yards per game this season. But the Bucs have a lot of respect for St. Louis defensive coordinator Lovie Smith, who left Tampa Bay during the 2001 offseason and installed the Bucs' 4-3, cover 2 defensive scheme in St. Louis.
"They look very good on pass defense,' said QB Brad Johnson. "They're doing a great job, especially on third downs. They've had two or three plays where guys have broken tackles and made some big plays. But they're actually doing a great job in pass defense and against the run."
Since the Bucs' offense plays against the same type of defensive scheme everyday in practice, they feel it will help them move the ball on Monday night.
"I think it will help us," Dilger said of St. Louis' defense running a similar scheme to Tampa's. "If we execute well we can score against any defense."
St. Louis' offense, who has been the poster child for scoring points (33.1 avg. per game) over the past three seasons, has been out of sync as well, which has resulted in them ranking 13th in the league. But the Bucs feel the Rams' offense is capable of breaking out of the slump on any given play.
"I think St. Louis is a great team," said Bucs RB Michael Pittman. "They've got some great weapons and a great head coach. Hopefully our defense will go out there and have the game they had last week against Baltimore. St. Louis can bust out on the scene any minute. But we can, too."
Although they're not in the same division, the Bucs and Rams have turned in some very exciting football games over the past three seasons. In fact, their last three games against each other have been decided by a total of 15 points.
1999 NFC Championship Game: Rams 11 Bucs 6
2000 Monday Night Football: Bucs 38 Rams 35
2001 Monday Night Football: Bucs 24 Rams 17
This Monday night's Bucs vs. Rams game probably won't be an exception.
"Going back to the 1999 NFC Championship Game, it's a heated rivalry," said Bucs SS John Lynch. "It just seems like it brings out the best in each team. It's really been well-played football and I think it's a rivalry."
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL SPECIAL FOR PITTMAN:
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have grown used to playing at least one Monday Night Football game each year since 1998. They're 5-4 all-time on Monday Night Football, including a 4-1 record at home. But there's one Buc that hasn't gotten used to it, but looks forward to getting used to playing during prime time more often. Bucs running back Michael Pittman only played in one Monday Night Football game during his four-year career with the Arizona Cardinals. Needless to say, Pittman is excited about the game against the Rams, which will be the first of two Monday Night Football games for the Bucs this season.
"This is going to be great," Pittman said of playing on Monday Night Football. "We're playing on prime time and the whole nation is going to be watching. You want to put on a good performance on Monday night for the whole league and you want to represent the league well. You get pumped up for a game like this. It gets you juiced for this game. We want to put on a great show and make a statement to the league that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are no joke."
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