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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Several Bucs, other NFL stars reaching out to fans through new social medium

In the ever-growing world of mobile applications, it can be easy to get lost in the shuffle.

But two former Buccaneers think they might be onto something with a new concept that has been met with the approval of players like the Bucs' Barrett Ruud and Cadillac Williams, as well as Phillip Rivers (Chargers), Chris Johnson (Titans) and many others.

Called Gridiron Grunts, the app -- available to iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch users -- aims to connect fans not only with each other, but with their favorite players. Through a series of "channels", users can hear "grunts" from participating players, which basically amounts to the player giving a verbal update on matters that users would deem interesting. It's like Twitter, only better, according to former Bucs linebacker Ryan Nece, who along with former Tampa Bay guard Jeb Terry, came up with the concept.

The players who are onboard already are thinking of creative uses.

"Once our season does finally get going, I think it’s really going to be a real cool deal," Ruud said. "I think that’s what it’s meant for more than anything. . . Once the season gets going, it’s going to be cool to give midweek updates, whether it’s about how you’re feeling or what you see from another team on film. I think that’s the kind of thing that fans, especially if they follow your team closely, I think they really can get into something like that."

The verbal aspect -- messages can be up to three minutes in length -- is what sets the app apart from most other social mediums. Whereas Twitter is limited to messages 140 characters in length, Gridiron Grunts allows athletes to both control the message they're conveying while reducing the likelihood of misinterpretation.

"It comes straight from you," said Bucs defensive tackle Brian Price, who has his own channel. "On Twitter, you don't get the tone or you don't know if it's a joke or what."

The content of the updates can run the gamut. Users listening to updates from Price have been getting first-hand accounts of his rehab from a pelvic fracture. Falcons first-round pick Julio Jones recently gave an update about his plans to work with Alabama coach Nick Saban to assist victims of the recent Tuscaloosa-area tornadoes. Some other popular players with channels include the Cowboys' Jason Witten, the 49ers' Vernon Davis and Vikings first-round draft pick Christian Ponder. Bucs fullback Earnest Graham is also a recent addition.

The concept appears applicable to other sports or arenas, such as entertainment. Nece said his company is already talking to interested athletes in other sports such as mixed martial arts.

"There really are no limits," he said.

There is no shortage of media attention given to NFL players, but Nece said this is a chance to get a more personal connection that fans wouldn't otherwise enjoy.

"(Players) get mics stuck in their faces all the time," Nece said. "But we said, 'How can we get athletes a chance to deliver content straight to the fans?' "

Gridiron Grunts is free to download through the iTunes App Store. Subscriptions to each channel cost 99 cents monthly.

[Last modified: Friday, May 20, 2011 2:37pm]


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