In town for a team meeting with coach Jon Gruden, Bucs cornerback Brian Kelly, who signed a six-year, $15-million contract March 19, said he is thrilled to be back but isn't happy about suggestions that he pushed out former Pro Bowl cornerback Donnie Abraham.
"What was uncomfortable was the comparisons," Kelly said. "It wasn't me against Donnie or anything like that type of deal. Management had an idea, a plan that they had to go with and they went with it. Donnie is going to be fine. He's a great player, a Pro Bowl corner and will have a great career."
Kelly moved ahead of Abraham six games into last season and started every game after. He finished the season withno interceptions, while Abraham recorded six to bring his six-year tally to a franchise-record 31.
Kelly said he expects those numbers to be brought up by critics.
"Probably, but I don't care," Kelly said. "Fans are great, but I'm cool with it. It wasn't me versus Donnie."
When the free agency market opened, Kelly was rumored to be a lock to join either the Jets or Colts. But he said the Bucs never gave up on him.
"The bottom line was that the Bucs stayed in open communication with my agent all the time," Kelly said. "They were going to call and get input and not go off of assumptions. It didn't work that way. We knew how the Jets were going to play it. How Indy was going to play it and Cincinnati as well. But this is where I wanted to be in the first place."
Kelly said he plans to commute between California and Tampa until his children get out of school.
"It's exciting," he said. "I'm not going to say that we needed a change but sometimes change is good.
"There are some new faces in here and guys don't know each other's names. But the respect is there and you know right off the bat that coach Gruden is a fiery guy, a high-powered guy, a motivator. I think it'll be good for us."