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Bucs rookie tackle sounds off

Kenyatta Walker faces the other team's best pass rusher each week. What he can't block out are distractions outside the lines.

That's why teammates and coaches have forbade the rookie left tackle from having his cell phone in the locker room.

"I'll tell you the biggest thing I can't do. I can't use my phone in this locker room," Walker said. "I cannot have it. I've not really been banned, but I've been advised.

"Hey, if that's going to make them feel better. Screw it."

While his phone service is easily restored, Walker also has become disconnected from some of his teammates.

The Bucs' first-round pick sits alone at his locker every afternoon while the rest of the starting offensive linemen congregate a few feet away inside the equipment room.

Having struggled with the transition from right to left tackle, Walker has been blamed for many of the woes on the line, which has yielded 29 sacks.

And unlike some first-year players, Walker doesn't respond well to admonishments from teammates.

"True enough, I don't take s---. I'm just not gonna take it," Walker said. "I don't care. I'm a starter. I play. I'm just not gonna take stuff from nobody.

"They'll always say this: I came in this way, and I'll always be this way. They won't ever say I changed. Because I came in as a rookie the way I am and I just don't care."

According to coaches and players, Walker is not alone.

Rookies are increasingly brash and sometimes disrespectful to coaches and veteran teammates.

In part, it's because of huge signing bonuses, instant fame and immediately being penciled into the starting lineup.

"They think they've reached that level because the world wants to know about me," running back Warrick Dunn said. "The first thing you learn here is that respect is earned. It doesn't matter where you got drafted.

"The problem is that some players think they're bigger than the game."

Sunday, for example, the Bucs benched rookie cornerback Dwight Smith.

Normally used as a nickel back, Smith was fined an undisclosed amount by the team for missing the bus to the airport before the game at Green Bay. The next week, he reportedly was late for a weight training session.

"The players coming into the league are different," safety John Lynch said. "It used to be that you went through an orientation as a rookie. I'm not talking about hazing. You were expected to be quiet, take notes and learn how to be a pro from watching the veterans. Now, they walk into the starting lineup."

Coach Tony Dungy admits that he increasingly has trouble relating to young players.

"They're more apt not to listen to you," Dungy said. "More apt to say, "Yeah, I know what you mean.' But not really know what you mean. And more apt to have to learn things by experience.

"You'd like to say, "Put the phone away until we start winning.' But they don't see the correlation that has. They say, "I'm going to be who I am. You can't tell me how to dress or act. As long as I play, that's all you should be concerned about.' "

According to Walker, some of his problems with teammates stem from envy.

The former University of Florida standout has a seven-figure salary, visibility as a former Gator and even his own radio show.

"It's jealousy. There's a lot of jealousy," Walker said. "Oh, my God. It's funny. If you knew the stuff I can't do just because I start. I can't say stuff around people the wrong way.

"I look at this year. This is my first year as an NFL starter. You get somebody else to do it, to come out of college and change from the right to the left tackle. Kiss my a--."

Walker was particularly bemused at a recent report in Buccaneer Magazine. Using unattributed sources, the story said that Walker had run-ins with Warren Sapp, Lynch and others.

"Basically, this article is saying Kenyatta Walker is a very cocky left tackle," he said. " "He's not trying to listen, he's not trying to get any better.' That's basically trying to say, "Everybody can kiss my a--. And it's propaganda. It's crazy. But this is part of being a first-round left tackle.

"It says, "Kenyatta Walker decides not to show up for his radio show so they decide to cut his radio show.' Propaganda. They wanted to move it. Then people have been coming at me for different radio shows. I got a better radio show, you know what I'm saying?' "

At 22, having left Florida as a junior, Walker also is the youngest player on the Bucs roster.

"I'm the youngest guy in this locker room," he said. "I'm 22 years old. I'm the youngest, and I've got the money now, I've got this. You're going to get mad at me because I went to Florida and I played well and was the best tackle and got drafted. It ain't my fault that you didn't. I've a radio show and this and that. Give me a break. Like what am I supposed to do?

"Don't get me wrong. I needed help. It's hard enough being in the NFL. I'm like a chicken with my head cut off out there. I'm learning how to be a professional. I can't be here all the time, I can't do this because people know me. It's a lot of stuff."

Offensive line coach Chris Foerster said what Walker is experiencing is no different than any rookie who is expected to start.

"These players are the same to everybody," Foerster said. "If you have a job to do and you don't do your job, they eat you up."

Apparently, Walker hopes they've had their fill of him.

"Don't think I don't get tired of it," Walker said. "I'm tired of them saying rookie to me. It gets old. The same mistakes get old. Because I'm probably as frustrated as anybody else. It just gets old. And I'm not going to ever go in there and tell Chris to sit me down. I'm not going to ever go in there and say I've had enough."

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