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Royals joins punting fray

The Bucs and Saints never planned to swap punters, but Mark Royals is happy to trade places.

Royals, 34, agreed to terms on a contract Wednesday with Tampa Bay, where he began his career in 1990.

"It's good to be back," Royals said. "The situation of being released by New Orleans was kind of weird. I had some good seasons there and was blindsided to be a free agent.

"But I felt this is the best place and the best scenario for me to get to stay home. I have lived here 10 years. With the Bucs, everybody is expecting good things."

Royals was released by New Orleans last month _ following his two most productive seasons in the NFL _ because the Saints signed former Bucs punter Tommy Barnhardt.

Royals impressed Bucs scouts during a workout in Tampa on July 27, when he outkicked four veteran punters _ John Kidd, Tom Hutton, Tommy Thompson and Greg Montgomery.

In 1997, Royals led the NFL with a 45.9 average.Last season, he led the NFC at 45.6. Since leaving Tampa Bay as a Plan B free agent in 1991, he won jobs in Pittsburgh, Detroit and New Orleans.

The Bucs have two other punters on the roster _ Aron Langley Eddie Howard.

In addition to having an edge in the punting battle, Royals is expected to serve as the team's holder on placekicks.

"It's something I enjoy," Royals said. "It's good for the kicker to have one guy he can work with. It's especially good to work with a young guy like Martin (Gramatica)."

To make room for Royals, the Bucs released free-agent WR Felman Malveaux.

UNNECESSARY ROUGHNESS: In the night practice, S Damien Robinson put a crushing hit on WR Bert Emanuel during a non-contact team drill, getting a warning from coach Tony Dungy.

"We don't really like to see that," Dungy said. "The intensity was there, but we've got to play with a little better poise and not hurt our guys unnecessarily.

Emanuel got up slowly but finished practice, which was held in front of about 5,000.

BOOGER'S CHRISTENING: Now, it's for real. Anthony McFarland joined his teammates Wednesday morning for his first official workout and said he didn't feel like an outsider.

"If I didn't have those minicamps I would have felt way behind," McFarland said. "But I had been to the minicamps and practiced with these guys, so I felt right at home. I had a chance to get my feet wet back in April and all of June."

It was McFarland's first full contact drills since college football season.

"You can think you're in great shape but you put the pads on and they tell you something else," McFarland said. "It was good to get out there, run around a little bit and get some contact."

Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said although the Bucs have plans for McFarland this year, he has high standards to reach.

"Brad Culpepper and Warren Sapp, Nos. 77 and 99, are pretty good football players, so it's not like: "Here Anthony, take over for them,' " Kiffin said.

SMOOTHIE KING: One day after resting his arm because of soreness, rookie QB Shaun King showed some signs of why the Bucs took him in the second round. King completed a few crisp touchdown passes in a morning session passing drill and his coach took notice.

"Shaun looks a lot more comfortable out here than even at the minicamp and the June work that we were doing," Dungy said. "We were working inside the 20 and in scoring territories and he made some good, sharp throws and more impressively, threw to the right person. That's what you want to see."

BAD LUCK, GOOD LUCK: Despite injuries to RBWarrick Dunn (patellar tendon), FB Mike Alstott (left ankle) and LB Derrick Brooks (right ankle), the Bucs aren't too concerned going into Saturday's scrimmage in Miami.

"You hate to see people get hurt and miss time, and we would like them out there practicing, but that's part of the game," Dungy said. "I thought (rookie RB) Autry Denson really did some good things (Wednesday). The more opportunities he gets, the better it is for him."

ACTION!: An HBO film crew shot a promo at camp. Sapp and Trent Dilfer were featured.

INJURY UPDATE: LB Shelton Quarles (dehydration) sat out the morning session. "We're going to look at it and see if there's anything more we can do to help him out with that," Dungy said.

Rookie FB Lamarr Glenn has had an eventful few days. He suffered a gash under the chin Monday, got stitched up and practiced that afternoon. Wednesday he slightly sprained his ankle.

_ ROGER MILLS, RICK STROUD

DID YOU KNOW?

In the last nine games of 1998, only four quarterbacks had more TD passes than the 16 produced by the Bucs' Trent Dilfer: Minnesota's Randall Cunningham (20), the Jets' Vinny Testaverde (18), Green Bay's Brett Favre (17) and Indianapolis' Peyton Manning (17).

QUOTABLE

"John McLaughlin . . . and . . . man, I can't think of the other guy. He's a punter and you know . . . I don't know his name, he's a punter. I'll ask him later on." Booger McFarland on the identity of his two roommates.

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