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Bucs' post-camp state of the union

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Bucs players were informed in the wee hours of the morning Thursday that training camp had ended while they slept. The final workout was canceled, and team officials slipped a note to that effect under every door at the Celebration Hotel. By most accounts, it might have been the easiest camp in Bucs history. An air-conditioned tent hosted most of the afternoon workouts (call it Disney on Ice). Dehydration was down with only 40 IVs being used compared with 120 last year, coach Jon Gruden said. Not that the Bucs are going soft, but they still don't seem to have hard answers to several nagging questions. What did we learn at this year's training camp? What didn't we learn?

1 Aqib Talib is the real deal

Sure, the first-round pick from Kansas could use an alarm clock. Since being drafted, he has been late to meetings, missed the plane to the Pro Football Hall of Fame with his rookie class and engaged in a shoving match with a teammate at the NFL's rookie symposium. But on the field, Talib is ahead of schedule. At 6 feet 1, 205 pounds, he's physical and has a long wingspan and flypaper hands. He has made acrobatic interceptions in practice and broke up two passes and made a great open-field tackle on Dolphins running back Ricky Williams. He'll start at nickel corner, but it will be hard not to play him every down.

2 Joey Galloway: Handle with care

The 36-year-old receiver isn't slowing down. It just takes him longer to reach maximum speed. All flights are canceled is coach Jon Gruden's description of Galloway's lingering groin injury, which forced him to miss all three weeks of camp. When he gets back, Galloway needs to discover how his surgically repaired shoulder can take a hit. Right now, it's Joey being Joey. He'll tell the Bucs when he's ready to play.

3 Warrick Dunn has plenty in the tank

At 33, Dunn is well past the expiration date of most running backs. But he isn't most running backs. Dunn won't get much playing time in the preseason as a precaution, so trust us on this: He's the perfect fit for Jon Gruden's offense. Look for Dunn to be used more as a receiver than a rusher; although he certainly can still do both.

4 Jeff Faine is a big upgrade at center

At 26, Faine is the "old man" of the offensive line. But he fits right in with the current group of high draft picks. He was part of a Saints offensive line that led the league in sacks allowed last season. He will challenge his young teammates to do the same.

5 Chris Simms can still play

The calf injury to Jeff Garcia gave Simms some valuable reps, and he took advantage with a strong performance in the preseason opener at Miami. Healthy for the first time in nearly two years, Simms completed 8 of 10 passes for 60 yards. He drove the Bucs to a touchdown and missed field goal. One sequence was most important. On the final possession, Simms took a blindside hit from 305-pound end Randy Starks. On the next play, a third and 13, he stood tall in the pocket and delivered a strike to Micheal Spurlock for a 15-yard gain.

Five things we still don't know

1 Is there a receiver in the house?

The Bucs might have done enough to address the position during the offseason by acquiring a project and a prospect. Veteran Antonio Bryant, above, who did not play at all last season, has oodles of talent but has not played nice with coaches throughout his career. He also still has some rust to knock off. Rookie Dexter Jackson, a second-round pick from Appalachian State, was limited with a hamstring injury and didn't get much work at receiver. Time for Michael Clayton or Maurice Stovall to man up.

2 Who's the backup quarterback?

The battle is between Luke McCown, top, and Brian Griese. McCown gets the edge, but Griese is closing fast with three games still to decide it. "He's one of those guys the more you give him, the better he is, " coach Jon Gruden said of Griese. "He's rare that way.".

3 What happens to injured players?

Running back Cadillac Williams, top, and tackle Luke Petitgout likely will start the season on the physically unable to perform list, meaning they must miss at least six games. But Petitgout, who was expected to recover from a torn ACL in time for camp, could be released. Bucs fans could see Williams, who tore a patellar tendon on Sept. 30, by midseason.

4 Will Gaines Adams be special?

Adams worked hard to get stronger after last season's second-half surge allowed him to finish with six sacks as a rookie. But he struggled in the preseason opener against Miami. He'll need to perfect a complement move to his outside speed rush in order to make a Mario Williams-like leap in Year 2.

5 Will the Favre chase leave scars?

Quarterback Jeff Garcia missed out on a $1-million playing-time bonus after being held out at the end of last season and seemed disrespected by the Bucs' flirtation with Brett Favre. Will he bring that frustration into the huddle? Hard to know because Garcia has a right calf strain and can't play. But come Sundays, the Bucs are betting on his ultracompetitive nature.

Bucs' post-camp state of the union 08/14/08 [Last modified: Sunday, August 17, 2008 12:45pm]
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