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Dunn nearly ready to play

Running back Warrick Dunn, who has not participated thus far and will not be in action this weekend in Miami, plans to be in pads Monday.

Dunn said he is almost healed from the patellar tendon injury to his right knee and is ready to get back on the field.

"Two weeks ago I couldn't even jog but now I'm 90 percent, just pain every once in a while," Dunn said Thursday. "Right now, it's a matter of getting everything back in shape, using the ligaments and muscles and everything to strengthen up the knee so the pain would just dissolve.

"I plan on being back out there on Monday morning, in pads."

Dunn, who rushed for 1,026 yards last season, has been working on his conditioning at camp. Hesaid he could play Saturday if it was the regular season, but he would rather wait the few extra days.

"I'll be much more assertive and sure about my knee if I go out and play on Monday with my teammates first before I go out and play with someone else," he said.

GETTING HIS KICKS: In Wednesday night's scrimmage under the lights, kicker Martin Gramatica displayed some of the strength and accuracy that made him a third-round pick.

Under windy and muddy conditions with rotating holders, Gramatica drove a number of field-goal attempts through the uprights and well past the crossbar. One kick hit the top of the crane where video cameras are perched.

"The goal is to kick it as high and as far as you can," said Gramatica, who missed a 50-yarder at the end of practice. "I was getting under it pretty good. I guessed it looked better from the stands than it did from the field. I thought I did okay."

Coach Tony Dungy said Gramatica's efforts are an indication of things to come.

"He's got a very strong leg and I think he's got a chance to be a special weapon," Dungy said. "Last night, his intensity, his emotions got into it. But now he's got to be able to do that relaxed and in the flow of the game. But I think it was good for him. (Wednesday) night I think probably everyone saw why we were so excited about him."

REPORTS CARDS COMING: Grading his receivers against the Dolphins secondary is a primary concern for Dungy.

"The one thing that will be kind of important to me, our receivers will get a challenge," said Dungy. "Miami plays a lot of bump coverage, they've got good corners. We'll see how we compete and get open against that."

Dungy said the defense also will be under scrutiny trying to stop QB Dan Marino.

"I think it'll be a good test for us because their passing game is a little different than ours, and obviously going against Marino, we get to see how our young DBs are," Dungy said. "More than that, I want to see how sharp we are and how we compete."

SPECIAL CONCERNS: Dungy said the loss of Jerry Ellison, Tony Bouie and Robb Thomas will force the Bucs to use some of the starters on special teams.

"I could see us doing that a little bit more, especially early on," Dungy said. "I'm a little bit concerned about throwing five new guys in there. We've got some guys who know what they're doing. We'll have to rely on some of them a little more."

PRACTICE BITS: Receiver/punt returner Jacquez Green was particularly impressive in the kickoff return drills and returned one about 70 yards for a touchdown. Gramatica routinely put his kickoffs over the heads of the returners and onto the track around the field. That forced the coaching staff to toss returners a ball to start the drill.

INJURY UPDATE: Dunn, FB Mike Alstott (left ankle), LB Derrick Brooks (right ankle), S Dexter Jackson (right hamstring), FB Lamarr Glenn (left ankle) and LB Shelton Quarles (dehydration) did not take part in practice.



"It should help us. That's what you're looking for, continuity. John McKay, I guess, used to tell jokes about the same guys being back and that was part of the problem. So, having the same guys back isn't a cure-all. The same guys have to be back and play better than they did the year before."

_ BUCS COACH TONY DUNGY, On having 11 offensive starters return


Over the past three regular seasons, the Bucs are 16-8 when they are penalized five times or less and 8-16 when they are penalized more than five times. In the final five games in 1998, the Bucs won all four in which they were penalized five or less times and lost the one game in which they committed six infractions.

Tony Dungy and NFL officials didn't always see eye to eye last season.