DE Chidi Ahanotu is a great practice player, according to Monte Kiffin
For the Week ending September 24
Here's a drill that the Buccaneers' defense runs every week in practice, an exercise that sounds simple but is considered very important. It's called the pursuit drill and it begins when Defensive Backs Coach Herman Edwards, imitating the quarterback, throws a pass into the hands of a defender. As soon as the pass is 'intercepted', the entire defense must turn and sprint at top speed to the corner of the end zone closest to the interception. Defensive Line Coach Rod Marinelli and Linebackers Coach Lovie Smith are waiting on opposite ends of the end zone. The coach to which the play comes toward must determine if all of the players are running at top speed until they hit the goal line. That earns a thumbs-up and ends the drill. If the coach judges any of the players to be slacking, he gives a thumbs-down, calls out the number of the offending player and the drill starts over again. "In '96, when we first got here, they came back a lot," said Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin. "Now our first group never comes back." * Kiffin, who obviously appreciates all-out hustle, recently called DEChidi Ahanotu** an 'unbelievable practice player.' Kiffin says that Ahanotu is a great leader for the Buccaneers in his own way because he practices and plays so hard.
LB Derrick Brooks on the continuing motivation he gets from the team's loss to St. Louis in the NFC Championship Game last January: "To be quite honest, until we get back to that game, that feeling will never leave me. We felt like the best team in the NFC didn't play in the Super Bowl. From a defensive standpoint, we felt like there was no way we should have lost that game." As a recap, the Rams have scored at least 23 points in each of 16 straight games except one. That one was an 11-6 win over the Buccaneers. * On Monday afternoons, when the Buccaneers gather to, among other things, watch game film from the previous day with their coaches, there are certain things they have come to expect. Each defensive player knows that, as the team watches the film together, every missed tackle and missed assignment is going to pointed out. Defensive CoordinatorMonte Kiffin** says that some of the players try to head off being called out by pointing out their own mistakes to Kiffin beforehand, but he doesn't fall for that maneuver. In addition, players are also called for 'loafs' when it appears on film that they didn't give maximum effort on a play. Though it generally leads to abuse from teammates, the Bucs have come to respect the process. What it tells them is that each player is accountable to each other.
WR Keyshawn Johnson doesn't understand why he still fields questions about whether Shaun King can take the Bucs to a Super Bowl. "Why do people think Shaun doesn't have it?" Johnson recently asked an interviewer. "He just goes out and wins almost every game he plays. To me, he's proven himself to be a leader…to take this team to the NFC Championship Game, to take this team to 3-0 (in 2000) shows that. He's gotten it done, and they still keep asking me the same question. When the bullets are flying, I think he has the poise to keep it going. Now I see him taking control. He knows which guys are coming and how long to stand in there. In Detroit, he tells me that they're coming, but he's going to hold the ball a little big longer while I ran a slant. And he did it and got a roughing the passer call, too." * Recently, the visiting broadcast crew from a national network was interviewing its list of players in Defensive Line CoachRod Marinelli's meeting room. Marinelli's room holds only about ten chairs, one of which is a custom job done up for him by his players last year. Being in the front of the room, that was the chair the broadcast crew left for the players to sit in. When it wasWarren Sapp's turn, he chose to take another seat. Defensive CoordinatorMonte Kiffin** later told the crew that Sapp did that out of respect for Marinelli; the defensive line thinks that only their coach should sit in that chair.
Perennial Pro Bowl guard Randall McDaniel came to play for the Buccaneers this season for what has been described as a modest contract. Clearly, McDaniel desired a chance to play for Head Coach Tony Dungy. However, Dungy, too modest to admit that fact, came up with a list of reasons why McDaniel targeted Tampa as his next NFL port. One, he's close to Bucs' signee Jeff Christy. Two, he was familiar with Bucs' Offensive Line Coach Chris Foerster from their years of overlap in Minnesota. Three, McDaniel is familiar with the way the Buccaneers practice. Four, the Bucs' home stadium features the reassuring feature of natural grass. Five, he felt familiar with the system the Bucs were going to run. And six, he wanted to stay in the NFC Central. * How shocking was last year's 45-0 loss at Oakland during a period when the Bucs won eight out of nine games? Never mind, we know the answer to that one. Realize, however, that no one was shocked more than Dungy. The Bucs' coach said last week that he has never felt better about a matchup going into a game than he did that weekend. That's saying a lot.
Our pro scout was in New York for the second straight Sunday last weekend and saw…a shocking win for the Redskins? A shocking loss? It's hard to keep it straight in the NFC East, where Dallas shocked the Redskins into a 1-2 record before the Redskins came back to 'shock' the 3-0 Giants. Whatever the shock value, our scout saw a very good Washington team on Sunday in New York. He reports that the team was much more committed to the run than they had been through the first three weeks, and that they hit the deep pass attempts that they had been missing on for several games. Of course, the two probably go hand-in-hand. In any case, the passing game was revitalized, our source says, because the receivers finally started making plays for QB Brad Johnson. * Speaking of the Redskins, our scout was overwhelmingly impressed by the team's standout rookie. No, not LBLaVar Arrington, whose early NFL ups and downs have drawn a lot of press, but TChris Samuels. Our scout believes that Samuels, who has played four regular season games as a pro, is already a top-five tackle in the National Football League! According to the source, Samuels has great 'football awareness' which means, in part, that he sees and recognizes stunts and games and helps out his teammates. Samuels doesn't play with 'tunnel vision' but sees the whole field. The rookie is equally adept on rushing and passing plays.* One last missive from the Redskins scene. The scout says that Washington has excellent depth on their offensive line, allowing them to keep everyone fresh and bring a lot of pressure from the outside, particularly with ends Marco Coleman and Bruce Smith.