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Tampa Bay Buccaneers content with linebacker lineup

TAMPA — Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the Bucs did not draft a linebacker though they released Derrick Brooks and Cato June in February. Asked whether he felt comfortable with the current group, GM Mark Dominik was unequivocal. He said it's unlikely the team will change its linebacker lineup in a major way, likely adding only a rookie free agent.

Dominik likes what they have in the middle with Barrett Ruud. And at strongside, free agent Angelo Crowell should be full time by early May after last year's season-ending knee surgery. They'll have competition at weakside with converted safety Jermaine Phillips, Quincy Black, Geno Hayes and Adam Hayward.

"I think we're really close," Dominik said. "I think we're very comfortable with where we're at. … For us, the way we sit here today, I feel comfortable that we have addressed the linebacker spot. We just haven't had a chance to let everyone else see it."

CLEAR THE AIR: First-round pick Josh Freeman participated in a chat session Saturday and made a startling revelation about recent conversations.

The former Kansas State quarterback said he pretty much knew what was coming.

"I felt that all along," he wrote. "Even when they picked up Byron Leftwich. It was something they told me — they told me it was a smokescreen, everybody would think they didn't want a QB. They said they were ready to trade up. I think it worked out great. I was sitting there with my family and enjoying it, and I got to go to the team that I wanted to go to."

Coach Raheem Morris indicated that Freeman misspoke.

"We talked about that (Sunday) morning," Morris said. "Sometimes quotes are taken out of context. The young man was asked the question and he kind of answered it the wrong way.

"Hey, Leftwich called him this morning and told him he's going to put him in a headlock when he gets down here and then after that he's going to put him under his wing and get him ready to go. So, they talked on the phone this morning and I think we're okay."

TOUGH TRANSITION: OT Xavier Fulton, a fifth-round pick, played two seasons at right defensive end at Illinois before tearing a knee ligament. He then converted to left tackle, where he was second-team All-Big Ten in his only two years at that spot.

"It was a little difficult at first getting to adjust," he said. "Especially, the biggest thing I had trouble with — and so does everybody else — (was) learning pass blocking. … I think I got the hang of it over the past two seasons and I feel pretty comfortable at it now."

Fulton had right shoulder surgery in February but said he feels fine. Morris said Fulton will participate in rookie camp this weekend, but is "limited."

QUOTABLE: Ex-coach Jon Gruden lauded the Bucs' top selection again, saying on the NFL Network that Freeman can handle the pressure: "This guy can take the punishment, and you better watch out, he might lower his shoulder and dish it out, too."

HE AIN'T HEAVY: Freeman checks in at 248 pounds. Where does that rank among current quarterbacks? Of 96 QBs on NFL rosters and 10 drafted this weekend, only four are listed as weighing more: the Lions' Daunte Culpepper and the Raiders' JaMarcus Russell (260 pounds each), Chiefs backup Quinn Gray (254) and Leftwich (250).

Times staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers content with linebacker lineup 04/26/09 [Last modified: Sunday, April 26, 2009 10:43pm]
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