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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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European veterans playing key role in new NFL season; 23 NFLEL quarterbacks on rosters


QB Brad Johnson used NFL Europe League experience to prepare him for a starting job in the NFL

The new National Football League season will have a distinctly European feel when it kicks off on Sunday.

As the battle for a place in Super Bowl XXXVI commences, a total of 191 players with NFL Europe League experience are currently contracted to NFL teams. That includes a total of 23 quarterbacks on active rosters, four of whom will be starting for their teams on Sunday.

Brad Johnson, who proved his ability with the London Monarchs in 1995, was one of the biggest free-agent signings of the offseason when he moved to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from the Washington Redskins. Johnson starts life as a Buccaneer at the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

Buccaneers wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson said of his new teammate: "Brad is my ninth quarterback in six years and you can tell this guy has played his position for a long time. I'm excited about playing with him.''

Brad Johnson added: ''My job is to keep things positive. The NFL season is a long one and there will be sacks, interceptions and bad passes. But I know I can help this team. It's a good fit for both of us and I felt Tampa was the place that gave me the best chance to win. I still feel that way."

Kurt Warner, who led NFL Europe in passing yards while playing for the Amsterdam Admirals in 1998, will lead the St. Louis Rams into battle at the Philadelphia Eagles. After missing several games with a broken hand last season, but still earning a second Pro Bowl berth, Warner hopes to help the Rams regain the Super Bowl title they won after the 1999 season.

Former World Bowl MVP Jon Kitna, who led the Barcelona Dragons to the NFLEL title in 1997, will start for the Cincinnati Bengals against the New England Patriots after his offseason move from the Seattle Seahawks.

Former Amsterdam Admirals quarterback Jay Fiedler led the Miami Dolphins to the playoffs in his first season as an NFL starter in 2000 and he takes charge of the Dolphins offense against the Tennessee Titans in Nashville on Sunday.

He said: "I feel good compared to last year in terms of preparation. I got some good work in each of our five preseason games and it was good to see the things that we were able to accomplish throughout the preseason. If we can go to Tennessee and win it will really jump-start this team."

Three of Sunday's four starting quarterbacks with NFLEL experience are among the eight active quarterbacks with the best won-lost percentage.

1. Kurt WarnerSt. Louis2160.778
2. Daunte CulpepperMinnesota1150.688
3. Jay FiedlerMiami1150.688
4. Doug FlutieSan Diego30140.682
5. Shaun KingTampa Bay1470.667
6. Brett FavreGreen Bay91500.645
7. Steve McNairTennessee41230.641
8. Brad JohnsonTampa Bay32180.640

In Baltimore, the Super Bowl champion Ravens are expected to feature Jason Brookins, who played for the Rhein Fire in the 2001 NFLEL season, as their starting running back this season. Brookins is one of seven former NFLEL players on the Ravens roster and one of 29 players who competed in Europe this spring to make opening day rosters.

The Chicago Bears feature 10 former NFLEL players on their active roster, including ex-Rhein Fire wide receiver Marcus Robinson, Offensive MVP of the 1998 season, and two quarterbacks who won World Bowl rings, Danny Wuerffel (Rhein 2000) and Jim Miller (Frankfurt 1995).

The Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers will each feature eight ex-NFLEL players on their rosters, including Packers wide receiver Bill Schroeder (Rhein 1997), who has averaged 1,025 yards over the past two seasons.

The contingent of seven ex-NFLELers on the New Orleans Saints' active roster includes defensive tackle La'Roi Glover, who starred for the 1997 Barcelona Dragons and made his first Pro Bowl appearance last season.

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