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Road show to rehearse

This is the kind of road trip that gets travel agents fired.

The Bucs will board buses about 6 a.m. today, drive three-plus hours to Jacksonville, hold joint practices with the Jaguars at 10:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., then rush home because they have an intrasquad scrimmage planned for 9:30 a.m. Saturday.

There is sure to be plenty of grumbling and griping, and that's exactly why coach Tony Dungy planned it this way.

"We're trying to look at the mental toughness of the team, get in a situation where it's a little tough and see how we respond," Dungy said. "It's not the ideal way to go, we know that. But we want to work on tough road trips.

"We'll have to go to places where the other team maybe has a little advantage and we still have to produce and win."

Dungy pointed out the Bucs have a Sunday night game in Denver in September and will have to fly home immediately after the game to prepare for their Monday practice. "I don't want that to be the first time we ever experience it."

REINFORCEMENT: With Fred Lester continuing to miss practice with a hamstring injury, the Bucs signed free-agent fullback Robert Staten Thursday.

Staten, undrafted out of Jackson State in 1993, spent the '93 and '94 seasons on Minnesota's practice squad. He was in Vikings training camp last season, but was waived.

BUC ON BUC: The intrasquad game planned for Pepin/Rood Stadium on Saturday will be an easygoing affair. Players will be in shorts, and Dungy said his biggest concern is working out the communication kinks of having assistant coaches in the press box during games.

During his career as a defensive coordinator, Dungy spent games in the press box for a better view. This season will be his first on the sideline since 1982.

EASY DAY: Thursday's practice was limited to a light special-teams session in the afternoon. The players were on the field for barely an hour with special-teams coach Joe Marciano.

"Joe Marciano tells them, "Do it right, do it light. Do it wrong, do it long.' So I think they're picking it up pretty well," Dungy said.

THE RHETT RACE: Day 5 of Errict Rhett's holdout went by quietly. Agent Drew Rosenhaus said he had no contact with the Bucs. Rosenhaus hopes to meet with general manager Rich McKay when the team is in Miami next week.

INJURIES: OL Stephen Ingram (hyperextended knee) is out indefinitely. Lester, DE Keith Powe (sprained ankle), DT Marcus Jones (strained groin) and CB Jay Taylor (strained hamstring) are day-to-day.

_ JOHN ROMANO

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