POUND THE ROCK!

EXCLUSIVE - FROM THE PAGES OF PEWTER REPORT: Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden is letting his assistant coaches address the entire team in meetings, and defensive line coach Rod Marinelli's message to the players has become the Bucs' theme -- it's battle cry.

By letting his assistant coaches lead some of the pep talks, Jon Gruden's Tampa Bay Buccaneers are playing focused and enthusiastic football this year. The team has also rallied around the battle cry "pound the rock" en route to a 5-1 start to the 2002 season.

But while Gruden is famous for bringing intensity and fiery rhetoric to Tampa Bay, he isn't the only coach on the roster who can get the entire Buccaneers team fired up. In fact it was defensive line coach Rod Marinelli who introduced the catch phrase, "pound the rock" in a team meeting.

"It actually wasn't Gruden, it was Rod Marinelli that started it," right tackle Kenyatta Walker said. "He's been our inspirational speaker lately. He's got tape and shows you different stuff. It's all about chemistry and getting the team to believe."

In training camp, Gruden decided to break the 16-game season into four quarters and give a different assistant coach a quarter to deliver their own inspirational messages during team meetings.

"Being a head coach, everybody does it different, but I think if you have great coaches, it's exciting for the team to not just hear one voice all the time," Gruden said. "A lot of the things that I have learned over my career as a coach have been from other coaches that I have worked with and I plan on continuing that."

Marinelli got the first four games and instilled the "pound the rock" mentality into the team.

"We've got to crack that rock," Walker said. "The first couple of times it may not break, or the millionth time it may not break, but maybe on a million and one -- that's when it breaks. You've got to keep on hitting it and hitting it. Sometimes things don't work out, but you have to keep fighting and fighting."

Tampa Bay linebackers coach Joe Barry recalls the first time Marinelli introduced the "pound the rock" theme and how appropriate it was.

"It was before (the) New Orleans (game)," Barry said. "It wound up applying to that game. We talked about it at halftime. We just had to go out and keep pounding the rock and get the game into overtime or win it. Then it wound up applying to our situation the next week. Really, when you have to think about pounding the rock is when you lose that first game and now you're 0-1. If there is anytime to buy into a theme, it was that time. And it was the perfect theme to buy into."

Tampa Bay's hard-nosed defensive line coach is the most soft spoken man in an interview, but in a meeting room at One Buccaneer Place or on the sidelines at practice or on game day, his decibel level can shoot off the charts. But Marinelli, who is widely regarded as the league's premier defensive line coach, doesn't yell just to yell. There is always a deep meaning to his words, and his challenge was to come up with a universal message that could apply to the entire team.

"There's a reason they guy has had success with the guys that he's had," Barry said. "He has an innate ability to bring out the best in people. When you look at a theme or a saying that has to encompass the entire team -- the defense, the offense and the special teams -- it's hard. You might come up with a theme for the offense or the defense or the special teams, but he came up with a theme for everybody and it was 'pound the rock.' It's not going to be easy. It's not like you're going to be able to hit that thing and it's going to shatter. It might take a million swings, but if you consistently keep hitting that thing it will happen.

"It hit home with players from Martin Gramatica to Derrick Brooks to Brad Johnson to everybody. It was a great theme and we still talk about it today. We got introduced to that over a month and a half ago and we still use it today."

Tampa Bay's offensive players haven gotten a kick out of Marinelli's inspirational talks.

"I love the concept of what Coach Gruden is doing by giving other coaches the opportunity to be almost like the head coach for a month. I think it's great," said offensive tackle Lomas Brown. "You hear a lot of creative things from different people.

"I think it's important to not only hear from the head coach, but from the other coaches that coach different positions who bring in different concepts. I think Marinelli has a very good way of getting his point across. He can talk to you and get his point across or he can hit that switch and turn it on and yell to get it across. His philosophy was to pound on that rock. There were a couple of games this year where we really had to pound on that rock."

The modest Marinelli thanks Gruden for the opportunity to address the team during the first quarter of the season, but down plays the significance of "pound the rock" a bit, despite the fact that it has become the team's mantra this season.

"It's just a phrase," Marinelli said. "I just believe in creating an image for a guy and then you can hang your hat on it. In times of duress, a guy can go back and look and say, 'I can hang my hat on this.'"

Marinelli, a history buff who received a minor degree in history at California Lutheran College and served a one-year stint in the Vietnam War, brings a warrior's mentality when delivering an inspirational message, whether it is to his defensive line unit or the entire team. Marinelli uses a variety of visual images to help get his point across, whether it is a short film of gladiators doing battle to emphasize the message to never give up no matter what the circumstance, or an entire pride of lions hunting a gazelle to emphasize the principles of teamwork or relentlessly pursuing or containing the ballcarrier.

"He's a different breed and a no-nonsense guy," Tampa Bay middle linebacker Nate Webster said. "He's a military-mindframe guy. A lot of his speeches speak for themselves."

Webster recalls one of Marinelli's visual narratives from earlier in the season.

"One of his stories that sticks out was when he showed us a picture of some Indians painting their face," Webster said. "I don't know if he made it up or if it was actually going on in the picture, but he said, 'You know what these Indians are getting ready to do? They're painting their faces and getting ready to go to war. The Indians would pray before they go to war that their opponents would be strong.'

"I was trying to figure out why they would want that, but the moral of the story is that they were praying they would be strong because once they defeat their opponent they gain their strength, too. I was thinking, 'That's some deep stuff.' That's how I've been looking at each game if we are facing a great back or a great team or a great receiver."

Webster said that no player dares to fall asleep in a team meeting when Marinelli addresses the team.

"He's a guy you can't sleep on," Webster said. "He's a guy where you can't afford to miss anything he's saying. Everything that comes out of his mouth is pretty deep and has a lot of value. He's like the silent assassin on the team. He comes out when something needs to be said. Rod had the first quarter of the season. Pound the rock. That's what Rod has told us. If you don't see the light, just keep pounding. That's what we're doing."

Brown sees the parallels that he makes between war and football, and is fascinated to hear Marinelli's tales.

"Football is war," Brown said. "A war is also a lot of small battles. A war isn't won all at once. It's all those small battles that you can win. Once the whistle blows, all those small battles start. At the end, if you've won enough of those small battles that's going to lead to a big victory.

"He'll also bring up guys like Genghis Kahn and how they were great fighters. It was great to hear how in small numbers they were able to strategically defeat larger numbers. It's totally relevant to what we're doing, even if we're not the small army. We can be the big army and have a smaller army come in here and beat us if we don't do our job and stay focused."

While most of the Bucs' offensive players have only heard Marinelli speak a handful of times, defensive linemen such as end Greg Spires get the privilege of buying into Marinelli's philosophy on a daily basis.

"He definitely knows how to fire up the team and the defensive line," Spires said. "We're used to all of his motivational speeches, but when he gets in front of the team, the other players are like saying, 'Wow, I wish I could hear that everyday, too.' We get that stuff every day. He knows how to push your buttons. When Rod, talks everyone listens. Nobody wants to miss a word he says."

Spires noted that after hearing Gruden speak through much of the mini-camps and training camp in the offseason, having Marinelli talk to the team for the first quarter of the season was a smooth transition because of their high levels of intensity.

"They're pretty close in terms of personality," Spires said. "Jon and Rod are real fiery guys. They're neck-and-neck. They know what to do to get you fired up. We don't have a lot of bulletin board material. It's not about Atlanta or New Orleans. It's all about us and how we prepare."

Gruden has enjoyed Marinelli's presentations to the team and has found himself uttering the "pound the rock" phrase quite a bit over the past month.

"Marinelli is profound, man," Gruden said. "He's got some real insight to the game and life. There are some things we can all learn from him, myself included. This month we have to be using a couple of our young guys, and then next it will be another guy's turn. It's another way to utilize other strengths of this team."

The young guns Gruden is referring to are Barry and secondary coach Mike Tomlin, who addressed the team prior to the Bucs' hard-fought 20-6 win at Atlanta.

"We've talked about bringing the gangster attitude," Barry said. Me and Mike and trying to bring a little Generation X. Rod is a 50's guy, a Beach Boys guy all the way. Mike Tomlin and myself are more Generation X. We're bringing some youth to it -- a little Linkin Park, a little Mystikal.

Rookie cornerback Tim Wansley liked the contrasting approaches that Marinelli brought during the first month of football and that Barry and Tomlin are bringing to the team now.

"I'm not around (Marinelli) a whole lot, but hearing him talk about pounding the rock and mental toughness and what he says and the way it comes out - I've learned a lot," Wansley said. "He wants heart. He doesn't want you to hear people say, 'I can't do this or I can't do that.' He expects 110 percent effort on every play.

"(Barry and Tomlin) emphasize to remember to pound the rock, but do it with a gangster attitude. Be forceful. Force your will on your opponent."

Barry, who is in his second year with the Buccaneers, appreciates the opportunity to be a vocal leader.

"That's the thing that makes Coach Gruden great is that he gives everybody an opportunity to really reach out and give their voice to the team," Barry said. "It's great. It's been fun. Jon does a great job of staying on the cutting edge. This gives us a chance to kind of throw our flavor into it as assistants and it makes it fun for the assistants.

"The offensive guys don't get to spend a lot of time getting to know me. I think Bill Muir is going to have his time in this too. A lot of players know Bill, but they really don't know him. The defensive players don't really know him. But this gives the entire team a chance to get a feel for all the assistants. I've told Coach Gruden that it's awesome, and thanked him for the opportunity. It's neat to get up there before the group and address the team.


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