Walker To Stay At Right Tackle

February 25 - The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hope to re-sign left tackle Roman Oben in the coming days and keep Kenyatta Walker at the right tackle position. Walker steadily improved over the course of the season by playing right tackle, a spot he calls his "natural position."

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers plan on leaving Kenyatta Walker at the right tackle position for the 2003 season. As PewterReport.com reported last week, the Bucs hope to re-sign left tackle Roman Oben before the start of free agency, as both parties have mutual interest in working out a long-term contract. That move would allow the Bucs to keep Walker at right tackle instead of moving him to left tackle, where he really struggled as a rookie. Walker seeing any time at left tackle in 2003 would only arise in an emergency situation.

"I really feel that this is where I'm more comfortable at," Walker said of playing the right tackle position, which he played for three years at the University of Florida. "I've heard a lot of talk like I won't excel to my highest potential until I go back over on the left side, but there are a lot of good right tackles in the league -- Lincoln Kennedy, Willie Anderson, Big Cat (James Williams) and Jon Jansen. I've also got some chemistry with Cosey (Coleman) on this sound, and Bill (Muir) has been a big help, too."

After a rocky transition from the left tackle spot he played in 2001, Walker played good, focused football over the second half of the season and was a key part in Tampa Bay's Super Bowl run. That was quite a turnaround for the second-year tackle who had such a disappointing preseason that he was demoted to the inactive list in favor of journeyman Cornell Green for the season opener.

After a "meeting of the minds" with head coach Jon Gruden and offensive line coach Bill Muir re-focused him, Walker won the starting job back in Week 2, only to have his momentum halted by a high ankle sprain against St. Louis that sidelined him for the Cincinnati and Atlanta contests. After returning to the starting lineup versus Cleveland on October 13, Walker was a permanent fixture at right tackle and played well for the rest of the season.

"I definitely felt like a part of this team this year, Walker said. "I feel like I am a strong part of this team. Last year I felt like the weakest link. I'm getting in that groove. Next year is going to be the first time since I was in college that I'll be in the same offense again. That's a relief that this will all stick in my head."

Walker said he plans on hitting the weight room even harder this offseason to battle the bigger, more physical defensive ends he faces as a right tackle.

"I don't think Bill wants me any bigger, I mean I weigh about 300 pounds right now," Walker said. "I never wanted to be a big, fat, nasty guy. But I definitely have to get stronger. I need more upper body strength. On the right side, I'm dealing with a lot stronger guys. On the left side it was more finesse guys. I still have some finesse guys on the right side, like Julius Peppers, but I also have the strong guys like Michael Strahan, who I'll be facing. I definitely have to get stronger. Bill will get on me. Bill is probably the best thing that's ever happened to me. He tells it like it is, and I've needed a guy like that."

The Buccaneers traded up in the first round and surrendered a second-round pick in 2001 to Buffalo for the chance to draft Walker, who was expected to be a franchise-type left tackle due to his footwork and athleticism despite only playing right tackle for the Gators.

The Bucs personnel department would eventually like to see him become a dominant left tackle to justify the trade and the loss of the second-round pick, but the Tampa Bay coaching staff believes that Walker's best chance for success at the pro level is to gain upper body strength and stay on the right side.

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