No. 2 receiver job definitely in play

The No. 2 position at wide receiver will be one of the most competitive positions at training camp. Who's winning the battle? Find out, plus catch up on other big news from last week's mini-camp.

Maurice Stovall is winning the job as the Bucs' No. 2 receiver.

That means former first-round pick Michael Clayton is sinking on the team's depth chart.

At 6-foot-5, 220-pounds with sure hands, Stovall finished his rookie season with just seven catches for 102 yards and two carries for 29 yards. He was limited by a nagging back injury and buried on the depth chart.

Those numbers hardly compare to Clayton's first pro season, when he earned Rookie of the Year consideration with 80 receptions for 1,193 yards and seven touchdowns.

But Clayton's career has spiraled and he's combined for just 65 catches and one touchdown over the past two injury-plagued seasons.

That's why coach Jon Gruden is giving Stovall and former Chargers and Dolphins receiver David Boston, who hasn't caught an NFL pass in nearly three years, a chance to play opposite starter Joey Galloway.

"(Clayton) is a good player, but the guys around him are getting good, too," Gruden said. "It's going to be very interesting. I love Mike. He's had a lot of injuries in the last couple seasons (and) hasn't been able to finish the '05 or '06 season healthy.

"Maurice Stovall is not here to sign autographs on the sideline. He's here to play. He's going to get a great look here during the off-season. David Boston hasn't caught a pass in the NFL in three seasons. But those are two guys who have really worked their butt off are those two guys. Mike Clayton I think sees that, I think realizes that and it'll make for a very competitive situation here in training camp."

A third-round pick from Notre Dame, Stovall is a quiet, introspective player who overcame personal tragedy at the start of his rookie season. His mother, Cynthia, died May 24 of ovarian cancer but was able to see her son graduate from Notre Dame and earn a job in the National Football League.

As a tribute, Stovall has a tattoo of a crucifix, with the name 'Cynthia,' on his right shoulder. A tattoo of a black angel with wings is on his left bicep. Before he leaves the practice field every day, he kneels in prayer.

By all accounts, Stovall has been a fixture at the Bucs' training facility this off-season and his drive has never been questioned.

"I've always been that way and set high expectations for myself and I try to never be satisfied with where I am, whether it was high school or college," Stovall said. "It was the same way at Notre Dame. They have a high expectation level. I just carried that on into the NFL being a professional and it's time to step it up because not everybody gets this opportunity, so why not make the most of it?"

Let the show begin.

"He started for us last year as a rookie; that's no mistake," Gruden said. "It's no mystery, really. He's six-foot-five, he's in great shape, he's a reliable guy, he's tough as hell and he wants to play. At least that's what he's showing out here every day. He's a guy that gives us a size factor, I think a physical playmaker and a guy that's going to make for a real interesting camp."

Personnel Notes

Jeff Garcia may have been declared the Bucs' starter by Jon Gruden. But that hasn't stopped the Bucs coach from wanting Jake Plummer.

Plummer is subject to being fined for missing the Bucs' three-day mandatory mini camp that concluded last Thursday and indications are the team will ask him to repay about $7 million in pro-rated signing bonus if he fails to play this season.

Tampa Bay acquired the rights to Plummer in a trade with Denver March 3 in exchange for a conditional draft pick, prompting him to announce plans to retire from the NFL. Bucs general manager Bruce Allen said he recently spoke to Plummer and the team still hopes the 32-year-old quarterback reports to training camp July 27.

"You can't unilaterally retire as a player in the NFL, because you have a contract," Allen said. "He is under the same obligations as every player on the team.

"It is resolved. We've traded for him and it's no different than if he elects not to report to camp, no different than when Keenan McCardell didn't report to camp or when you see other players hold out. There's no difference."

— The Bucs have contacted Jaguars free agent safety Donovin Darius, who was released by the Jaguars last week. Darius, 31, has visited Oakland and received interest from Carolina and Buffalo. He's played just 12 games in the past two seasons due to injuries.

"We've checked into Donovin Darius, but we like where we're at right now," general manager Bruce Allen said.

— Defensive end Charles Bennett, who missed most of the mini-camp with a left knee injury, could begin the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list. "Other than that, everybody else will be ready to go," Allen said.

— Allen did not expect any problem signing the Bucs' 10 draft picks to contracts prior to training camp.

— The Bucs signed punter Sean Douglas and defensive end Jeremy Pittman. To make room for those players, the team released linebacker Jerry Mackey and kicker Garrett Rivas.

— Douglas handled the punting duties at the University of Washington the past three seasons and finished his career with a 42.8-yard gross average. Pittman was a tryout player during the Bucs' three-day rookie minicamp in May. Last season at Central Arkansas, he had 24 tackles and one sack.

The quote "If he doesn't, we're going to change his name to Wal-Mart." -- Bucs coach Jon Gruden on whether Tennessee guard Arron Sears will help them next season. Sears sat out of the mandatory minicamp for undisclosed reasons.

Personnel moves

Tampa Bay signed two of its 10 draft choices — S Tanard Jackson and CB Marcus Hamilton — over the weekend.

The Sports Xchange contributed to this report


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