Bucs News And Notes: Friday

March 7 - The Bucs agreed to terms with free-agent right guard Jason Whittle on Thursday, but will that be the only addition the team makes to its offensive line this offseason? Is Packers tackle Chad Clifton bitter toward Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp? Which Bucs player was the latest to restructure his contract to give his team some cap relief? What two teams will kick off the 2003 regular season on Thursday Night Football? Find out the answers to all of these questions in this notebook.

Bucs To Add Another Offensive Lineman?
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers agreed to terms with New York Giants unrestricted free-agent guard Jason Whittle on Thursday, but he probably won't be the last addition to the offensive line this offseason.

The Bucs are very interested in signing Jacksonville Jaguars free-agent center John Wade, but the team probably won't be able to sign him to a contract until the Bucs free up more room under the NFL-mandated $75-million salary cap.

While Whittle can play center and long snap, the Bucs brought him in to compete with Cosey Coleman at the right guard position.

Wade, who appears to be the No. 1 candidate to succeed center Jeff Christy, who was cut in a salary cap maneuver last week, started 34 of the 54 games he played in for the Jaguars, including 16 starts at center last season.

Clifton Says There Was Nothing Wrong With Sapp's Hit:
It's been nearly four months since Tampa Bay defensive tackle Warren Sapp drilled Green Bay offensive tackle Chad Clifton during cornerback Brian Kelly's interception return.

But Clifton finally spoke out about the controversy that surrounded the hit during Tampa Bay's 21-7 over Green Bay last season. The National Football League ruled that Sapp's hit was legal, and Clifton seems to agree.

"I'm not bitter toward him," Clifton told the Associated Press. "You assume the risks when you play this game. It was a perfectly legal hit. I honestly don't think he went out trying to hurt me purposely. "

Clifton did, however, wonder why Sapp didn't call him after the hit caused Clifton to suffer a career-threatening hip injury.

"I know this: If I had injured someone and they were in a Green Bay hospital for four days, I would definitely go to see him,'' Clifton said.

BUCS RESTRUCTURE ANOTHER CONTRACT:
Tampa Bay Pro Bowl fullback Mike Alstott has joined a growing list of Bucs players who have restructured their contracts.

Alstott had a $300,000 roster bonus turned into a signing bonus this week, which saved the Bucs about $200,000.

In addition to Alstott, the Bucs have restructured the contracts of cornerback Ronde Barber, linebacker Derrick Brooks, kicker Martin Gramatica, wide receiver Joe Jurevicius and tight end Ken Dilger this offseason. The team is still believed to be working on restructuring more players' contracts so it can free up more salary cap room.

Jets And Redskins To Kick Off 2003 Regular Season:
The National Football League announced Thursday that the New York Jets will play at Washington in the league's season opener on Thursday, September 4. It will mark the second straight season that the league will begin its regular season schedule on Thursday night.

The Jets-Redskins game will be nationally televised on ABC instead of ESPN, which televised the Thursday opener last season.

The remaining season openers will be played on Sunday, Sept. 7, and Monday night, Sept. 8. The NFL is expected to announce the entire regular season schedule around April 1.

The NFL has decided not to have a Monday Night Football Game on the final week of the season (Dec. 27-28). Instead, ESPN will have Saturday and Sunday night games on each of the last two weekends of the regular season.


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