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Bucs seek contract extension for Vinny

Say this about the Bucs wanting to extend Vinny Testaverde's contract: It would give him money to stick in the pocket and more time to throw.

Bucs negotiator Richard McKay met with a representative of Testaverde on Wednesday to begin talks aimed at reaching a possible contract extension for theenigmatic quarterback.

Testaverde, who is coming off his poorest performance as a pro, has one season remaining on a six-year contract that will pay him $1.566-million in 1992.

Another meeting between McKay and Testaverde's business manager, Michael Azzarelli, is tentatively scheduled in about three weeks to discuss the terms of a possible new deal that may link Testaverde to the Bucs for several more seasons.

"It was just a preliminary meeting to discuss Vinny's contract situation," McKay said. "I think he wanted to find out what our interest was and we wanted to know his interest in a possible contract extension. We both agreed to continue to move forward with these discussions."

The Bucs apparently are willing to forget last season, in which Testaverde set lows for passing yardage (1,994), touchdowns (eight), starts (11) and quarterback rating (59.0) since becoming the full-time starter in 1988.

According to McKay, a contract extension would provide Testaverde with more than just one season to develop under new head coach Sam Wyche.

"Sure, we think it would be a good idea," McKay said. "Especially to give him a comfort level and the team a comfort level since (Wyche) is going to invest a year in him teaching a new system."

Azzarelli said a possible agreement on a contract extension is likely to be reached before the 1992 season.

"It's not a good situation for the Bucs to have a one-year quarterback," Azzarelli said. "There are a lot of different things that could be offered and we'll have to weigh them when the time comes. One way or another, it involves a commitment to him."

Testaverde was the only quarterback protected under Plan B by Tampa Bay, which is actively seeking a backup for the Heisman Trophy winner. That search officially begins today when the Bucs conduct workouts for former New England Patriots and New York Jets quarterback Tony Eason and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Rick Strom, who was left unprotected as a Plan B free agent.

Eason, 32, was released by the Jets last season and has seen only limited action since injuring his shoulder while playing for New England in 1987. Strom, 27, dropped to third on the Steelers' depth chart last season behind Bubby Brister and Neil O'Donnell and did not appear in any games. The Georgia Tech product was signed as a free agent by the Steelers in 1989.

In five years in Tampa Bay, Testaverde has never thrown more touchdowns than interceptions in a season and holds an 18-40 record as a starter for the Bucs.

However, Wyche represents the third head coach in as many seasons for the Bucs and Testaverde, who also has been tutored by as many different quarterbacks coaches.

No matter how maligned Testaverde has been during his pro career, he still wants to remain in Tampa Bay.

"A lot would depend on the terms of his (contract) extension," Azzarelli said. "Tampa Bay is his home. His family and friends are here and I'm sure he would like to stay here."

Notes: The Bucs have scheduled a workout later this week for Atlanta Falcons' defensive end Aundray Bruce, the first overall pick of the 1988 draft. Bruce played three positions for the Falcons last season: linebacker, defensive end and tight end. There were reports last week that he had agreed to terms on a contract with the Los Angeles Raiders. The Bucs are close to reaching a contract agreement with Pittsburgh punter Dan Stryzinski, a Plan B free agent, McKay said Wednesday. Tampa Bay is still pursuing a contract agreement with kicker Donald Igwebuike.

Vikings' Nelson quits to join Walsh

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. _ Minnesota Vikings running back Darrin Nelson has agreed to become the backfield coach at Stanford, ending his 10-year NFL career.

The 33-year old, who is Minnesota's all-time combined yardage leader (9,738), will be reunited with his former college coach Bill Walsh. Nelson was Minnesota's first-round pick in 1982 and spent nine of his 10 NFL seasons with the team.

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