Final edited version not avaiable electronically. Please see microfilm.
THE BUCS: Lost in the joy of their recent victories was that their playoff hopes could have faltered in the hands of a rookie quarterback. Yet Donnie Abraham, Brad Culpepper, Ronde Barber and Shaun King led the way the past Minnesota, one of the NFL's hottest teams, under the glare of Monday Night Football. Without Warrick Dunn, without Trent Dilfer, the Bucs found a way to win, despite turnovers and their own deficiencies, to set up today's showdown with Detroit for the NFC Central lead.
TONY DUNGY: It has been too long since December meant so much to Tampa Bay fans. For that the credit belongs to the head coach. After that season-opening debacle against the Giants, who would have thought Tampa Bay would be within reach of a division title, a first-round playoff bye, a home playoff game even? At times Dungy's patient demeanor wore thin while the team struggled _ and continues to struggle _ offensively. Yet he had it right all along. Much can happen in 16 games. Patience in the hair-trigger NFL, he has taught us, is a virtue.
GIBBS HIGH: The St. Petersburg school has every reason to be proud. King (see above) and boxer Ronald "Winky" Wright, two former Gladiators, did their alma mater proud last weekend, turning in great performances on the biggest stages of their careers. King got a victory while the judges who scored Wright's junior middleweight title fight with Fernando Vargas apparently graduated from the Eugenia "What I saw that night is not what the camera saw" Williams School of Judging.
YO MURPHY: Oh, Yo. It's not your fault the Vikings don't understand the difference between a kickoff returner and a punt returner. The fans here still appreciate you _ even more so after you coughed up the ball at the Minnesota 15. Then again, it's not like we've got a star corps of receivers here anyway. Come back when camp opens next fall.
THE GLAZERS: Okay, we're not thrilled you maximized the value of your franchise on the backs of Hillsborough County taxpayers, but we understand the reality of big-time sports. But at least come clean about it. Tell us you thought swapping the Bucs for the Jets might be a good business deal. Don't act as if the New York Times made up the idea.
LEON SMITH'S ADVISERS: By all accounts, the troubled 19-year-old NBA player is getting the help he needs, or at least attempting to get it, by going to a psychiatric treatment facility. Smith's "advisers," one of them his high school coach, are now saying the Mavericks are not doing enough to help Smith adjust to the NBA considering Smith arrived in Dallas the product of 15 years in a group home and with emotional difficulties. "He is not a very worldly 19-year-old," attorney Dennis A. Berkson said. One has to wonder where the advisers' "concerns" were when Smith was considering entering the draft.
BOB PRUETT: The former Florida assistant is leaving Marshall to become football coach at Houston. Two weeks ago, he signed a seven-year contract extension with Marshall. No doubt he'll mention "commitment" to his recruits.
_ JOHN C. COTEY, SHARON FINK, ANTHONY PEREZ; JACK SHEPPARD, MIKE STEPHENSON, JAMAL THALJI