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McFarland, Bucs come to terms

A five-year deal worth about $8.5-million gets Tampa Bay's top pick in camp and deepens the talent pool on the defensive line.

The Bucs' logjam of talented defensive linemen has gotten a bit more congested.

Anthony "Booger" McFarland, Tampa Bay's first-round draft pick, ended his three-day holdout Tuesday evening when he agreed to terms on a five-year contract worth about $8.5-million, his agent Karl Bernard said.

The deal, which includes a signing bonus of more than $4-million, includes an escalator clause after the fourth season based on playing-time incentives that Bernard described as "attainable."

"It was a tough thing," McFarland said after arriving at Tampa International Airport. "I wanted to be out there with my teammates, and I'm looking forward to being out there with them (this) morning. You're sitting there, you're frustrated and you want to get this thing done. But you realize that it's a business first. You take care of business and then it's time to play ball."

McFarland, 21, flew in from New Orleans on Tuesday night and came off the plane carrying a green pillow and a portable stereo with headphones. "You go out and work out and do your thing, but until you put the pads on you don't get a chance to see where you're really at," McFarland said. "So when I put them on in the morning I'll get a chance to see."

And not a minute too soon.

"(Today) we have two practices and it would be nice to get him in for those two prior to going down to Miami," general manager Rich McKay said. "Because I don't see us having a real hard practice on Thursday."

While details of what kept McFarland from signing before the start of camp remain sketchy, the whispers of frustration are likely to blow away.

"The difficulty was because we didn't negotiate until Friday and Tampa Bay began training camp on Sunday," Bernard said. "Ever since Anthony was in elementary school, when the coach called a meeting, he wasn't there when the meeting started, he was there 15 minutes early."

McKay said negotiating the contract "took us basically 48 hours longer that it should have."

"I felt like we did get started before Friday but we couldn't really get to a point where we could close it until Friday because of Chidi (Ahanotu)," McKay said. "We didn't have enough room to sign him and that probably slowed us up a bit."

McFarland, a 6-foot, 300-pound defensive tackle from Louisiana State, was an All-American and the first defensive lineman selected in the draft and the 15th overall pick. A blend of speed and power, McFarland's game has been described as similar to two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Warren Sapp.

Now, he will back up Sapp and fight for playing time on a defensive unit that also starts former first-rounder Regan Upshaw, 1998 sack leader Brad Culpepper and DE Ahanotu, who recently signed a six-year, $30-million deal.

"I anticipate him playing, that's why we drafted him," coach Tony Dungy said.

"We have a strong defensive line, but we felt we could add something to it. I kind of look back at those Dallas teams when they had six or seven defensive linemen and they would put pressure on people at the end of the game because they had fresh people on. I think he's going to allow us to do that."

McFarland originally was scheduled to meet the media Tuesday night but the Bucs took him from the airport to team meetings. McFarland has missed four practices.

"The hardest thing is being off-track with everyone else," Dungy said. "You come into camp as a player and physically you're in pretty good shape, you go downhill for a couple of days and then you come back.

"Everybody else has hit that already and he's going to be following them. But that goes away after a while. Youthful exuberance helps. It can make up for the loss (of time)."

The late arrival doesn't seem to be a bother.

"I wouldn't say that (the holdout) is the end of the world," McKay said. "We've had a lot worse than this.

"I would have loved to have him here on Day One. But again, the nice thing is that he doesn't have to come in here and start. He can work his way in at his own pace."

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