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Plummer saga continues Wednesday for Bucs

Jake Plummer finally will emerge from the Idaho mountains this week, but it won't be because he is suddenly eager to wait in line behind the other five Bucs quarterbacks.

Instead, Plummer on Wednesday morning will sit at a conference table at NFL headquarters in New York flanked by attorneys trying to stave off the team's efforts to collect more than $7-million from a player who never donned a Tampa Bay uniform.

Across the table will be general manager Bruce Allen and league attorneys, each convinced Plummer should pay up. An arbitrator will hear arguments and decide the outcome.

An unexpected series of events led to the 33-year-old landing on the roster via a trade with the Broncos in March 2007. But that's when things got really weird as Plummer opted to retire. He hasn't budged despite a face-to-face plea from coach Jon Gruden to come south.

Now the Bucs are seeking to recover the prorated portion of a signing bonus paid to Plummer when he renegotiated his contract in 2005. The up-front money was paid, of course, with the understanding Plummer would fulfill a contract that binds him through 2009.

Plummer appears to have an uphill climb, but he won't go down without a fight. His representatives and union attorneys are likely to argue the Bucs aren't entitled to the money because, well, they didn't pay it. The Broncos did.

But the Bucs will argue that by having the Broncos join them in the grievance — at least on paper, because they are not seeking any money — they have adequate legal standing.

And there is precedent, a case involving the Dolphins' Ricky Williams. He was ordered to repay the team $8.6-million after his initial decision to retire following his trade from the Saints. More than $3-million of that sum was paid by New Orleans.

You might think none of this really matters that much. Oh, but it does. The Bucs would receive a salary cap windfall if they are successful. A decision probably won't be reached for several months, but any money recouped would be applied to the following season's cap. And $7-million in cap space is nothing to sneeze at.

So a signing bonus once paid by the Broncos might one day go toward paying a future Buccaneer.

A tight end SHAKE-UP: The signing of controversial tight end Jerramy Stevens was a curious move to some because they view him as a long shot to make the team.

Don't be so sure.

Gruden has indicated that part of the reason Stevens was used only sparingly last season was because his status was in limbo as the league had yet to determine the length of a possible suspension.

Turns out, Stevens missed just one game in 2007 and will sit out the first two of 2008. But he could be a factor thereafter.

Remember, Stevens came on strong after the one-game suspension, and being a returning player, he knows the offense through and through. And Gruden loves the 6-foot-7 player's ability to make something happen in the red zone, evidenced by the Bucs calling his number for one of the season's most critical plays: the winning touchdown in the Dec. 2 game at New Orleans.

Fellow tight ends Alex Smith, Ben Troupe and John Gilmore would be wise to take nothing for granted.

Be there or else: Keep June 17-19 in the back of your mind. Those are the dates of mandatory minicamp. Those who don't show (Earnest Graham, Chris Simms?) are subject to penalties.

The collective bargaining agreement permits clubs to fine players as much as $8,000 per offense for missed mandatory offseason practices, meetings, etc. The figure jumps to $14,000 when training camp starts, clearly giving the team the upper hand.

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at sholder@sptimes.com.

Plummer saga continues Wednesday for Bucs 06/07/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 10, 2008 5:02pm]

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