One has to be fast to keep up with Kansas City's Dante Hall, and LB Ian Gold used his speed to great effect on Denvers' special teams
He calls them his G-Men, a group to which Jon Gruden himself could belong.
A cross-section of the ridiculous bounty of new players signed or otherwise acquired by Gruden's Tampa Bay Buccaneers this spring: Garner, Gooch, Galloway, Griese, Garrett and now Gold.
That's a running back named Charlie a linebacker named Jeff, a receiver named Joey, a pair of quarterbacks named Brian and Jason and – as of Wednesday in what has to be considered one of the bigger coups in the Bucs' non-stop free agent spending spree – a linebacker named Ian.
That Gruden's G-Men share an alphabetical address on the Bucs' bursting-at-the-seams roster is, of course, nothing more than a curiosity. What's more important is that many of these men – plus other additions like tackles Todd Steussie and Derrick Deese and cornerback Mario Edwards – wanted to play in Tampa. General Manager Bruce Allen has bewildered Gruden with his ability to add so many significant players on the heels of a supposed salary-cap reckoning, but the coach understands that Tampa has to be an attractive destination for it all to work. And, of course, Gruden and his staff are a big part of the draw.
"We all worked hard to find a way creatively to help this player join our football team," said Gruden of Gold's addition, which comes late in the free agency game, after most of the other big names have already decided upon a new home. "I know Bruce is going to work his edge and angles as hard as he can and I know that Coach (Monte) Kiffin, myself and (Linebackers Coach) Joe Barry, worked as hard as we could. But at the end of the day, Ian Gold wanted to be a Buccaneer, he wanted to play in this scheme, with these players for the same cause."
Gold wanted to be a Buccaneer because he is tailor-made for Kiffin's system, which has produced outstanding results in Tampa since 1996 and has since been emulated around the league, even in Denver, where Gold played his first four years.
"To be honest, Coach Monte Kiffin, his defense is what I've been playing for the past four years, or I say the past two years at least," said Gold, who made his name as a Pro Bowl special teamer for two years before stepping into the starting lineup and producing even better results. "We incorporated a lot of the Tampa Bay Cover Two defense and a lot of schemes in our own defense. Larry Coyer started with that. Well, actually Ray Rhodes started with that and Larry Coyer, he's been running that for the past couple of years. I'm very familiar with the Tampa Bay defense."
Gold shares something else with at least one of the other G-Men, what may be the defining trait for both men. Like Joey Galloway, Gold has outstanding speed for his position. Galloway's addition to the receiving corps gives that group a dimension it has rarely had. Gold, on the other hand, becomes just one of the guys in the linebackers' meeting room – and when the other guys are Pro Bowlers like Derrick Brooks and Shelton Quarles, that's a good thing.
"I fit right in with those guys," said Gold. "Derrick Brooks has been around for quite some time. He's been a perennial Pro Bowler. Shelton Quarles is another fast guy (and) he's been to a Pro Bowl or two. I definitely feel that I complement those guys well, as well as those people will complement me well. I feel like we could possibly, without jumping the gun, be the fastest linebacking corps in the NFL next year."
Gold played weakside linebacker in Denver, Brooks' position. How he will be utilized in Kiffin's scheme, and on special teams, has yet to be fully determined. Suffice it to say, he will be on the field a lot. Gold had visited several other teams during the free agency period, but the Bucs wanted him badly and found a way to get it done, against the odds, it would seem.
"He is a serious guy," said an appreciative Gruden. "He's got a great look in his eye. His demeanor, his temperament, I think is going to fit in quite well with how we approach things here on defense. The standards are extremely high and Ian Gold is a guy that sets his bars extremely high. He is an impressive guy. He's got a lot to prove and I think he is looking at this as a great opportunity to join forces with a defense that has been one of the tops in the league for the last seven or eight seasons."
Gold had the unfortunate experience of hitting the free agent market while still recovering from the first significant injury of his career, a torn ACL in his right knee suffered six games into the 2003 season.
For a speed guy, that is obviously a consideration for those teams pursuing him. But Gold has been rehabbing since his October surgery, the Bucs are satisfied with his bill of health and he is confident he'll soon be back to 100 percent.
"I'll be ready," Gold insisted. "If it was up to me, I'd be ready for training camp to start a month from now. I'm ready to play some football. I'm definitely confident that I will be ready to compete, fly around and be the same or better player that I was over the last couple of years in the NFL.
"When it comes to football and playing football, I only have one speed. I know myself very well and I pride myself in only having one speed. I look forward to getting out there and making sure when I do go full speed, and I do push it, the knee holds up. That's going to be my biggest apprehension and I will be a little hesitant at first, and once I do things to make sure my knee holds up, this will all be done."
And when will it all be done for the Buccaneers, who have brought in more than 20 new veterans for their roster since the free agency period began on March 3? The recent signings of Gold and Edwards almost seem like remote afterthoughts after the near-daily maneuvering of March, but they are definitely two of the more significant additions the team has made. It appeared as if the team would address its offense through free agency and make minor adjustments on defense through the draft, but that hasn't proven to be the case. The Bucs still might not be done.
"I am sure there will be (more additions)" said Gruden. "Every once in a while I get the feeling that it will finally slow down. Our goal was to improve our football team. We are not the defending Super Bowl champions, we were 7-9 (in 2003). It's a sick feeling in my stomach and a sick feeling in our player's stomach. We needed to improve our football team."
No question they have accomplished that with the latest addition to the G-Men.