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Dungy focusing on special teams, too

Contrary to popular belief, coach Tony Dungy is not devoting his full attention to the quarterback position.

While fans focus on the attempt to improve the passing game, Dungy said special teams _ particularly kick coverage _ have been a primary concerns.

The Bucs have to find capable rookies to fill the spots left by S Tony Bouie, RB Jerry Ellison and WR Robb Thomas. The veterans were casualties of the salary cap, and while they didn't start, they played valuable roles on special teams.

If you think kick coverage players are easily replaceable, consider this: Dungy said the loss of '98 salary-cap casualty Tyrone Legette led directly to touchdowns for Chicago (93-yard punt return by Glyn Milburn) and Detroit (105-yard kick return by Terry Fair).

"I could almost guarantee you if Tyrone Legette was on the team, they would have not been touchdown returns," Dungy said. "But you lose guys that have played five or six years because you can't afford that minimum. You put a rookie in there and, just like rookies make errors on offense and defense, they're not going to be as honed up on special teams."

A number of rookies and second-year players will be looked at, including DE John McLaughlin, RB Autry Denson and RB Rabih Abdullah.

"That's one of the things I'm really going to be looking for in these games is who can step in there," Dungy said. "You do it in practice when it slows down but when it's happening at 100 miles an hour and you're not sure who's blocking who, can you have that poise and still go down there?

"I'm more concerned about that, really, than any other area of our team."

TRIBUTE: DT Warren Sapp is wearing the numbers of former Bucs Demetrius DuBose and David Logan on the back of his helmet.

DuBose, who played with the Bucs from 1993-96, was killed by police investigating a burglary in San Diego last month. The shooting is still under investigation.

Logan played from 1979-86 and had served as the color analyst of the Buccaneers Radio Network for the past eight years. He died in January because of complications from a blood clot.

It's a clear tribute to the lives of the two players, but Sapp said Friday it's also a message to the organization.

"I think the one thing I'm trying to do is bring a consciousness to somebody upstairs in this organization," Sapp said. "True enough, they had nothing to do with Logan, nothing to do with Demo, but they were a part of this family.

"That kind of goes to say if I die in five years, so be it. Never forget somebody that came out and bled and sweat for an organization. They'll always be recognized as a Buc. Ex-Buc, former Buc, whatever it may be, they are a part of this. They were here."

Team officials are having internal discussions about how to honor Logan.

"Dave was a dear member of the Buccaneer family, a tremendous football player and a super, super guy," director of communications Reggie Roberts said. "We all miss him very, very much, and we're trying to figure out how best to honor his memory."

DB NEEDS: With Cleveland looking to use a number of multiple receiver formations, Bucs cornerbacks definitely will be tested. Dungy said it's a must to have three or perhaps four good cornerbacks.

"Third down is a big down where you have a chance to stop them and get off the field, and they've got three wide receivers or four receivers and they're looking for mismatches," Dungy said. "If you've got a weak link, it makes it tough. The third and fourth corner even is important."

Donnie Abraham and Ronde Barber are penciled in as starters, while second-year veteran Brian Kelly is the nickelback. Backups who will get a long look include Cedric Donaldson, Troy Saunders and Alphonso Roundtree.

INJURY UPDATE: DB Floyd Young (hamstring), RB Warrick Dunn (hamstring), WR Dillan Micus (hamstring), LB Alshermond Singleton (lower back strain) and WR Bert Emanuel (lingering effects of a concussion) won't play.

EXCUSED ABSENCE: DE Regan Upshaw missed Friday's practice to tend to his wife who went into labor. DE Steve White filled in.

_ ERNEST HOOPER, RICK STROUD

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