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Ex-Gator Matthews now a happy, eager Bucs QB

Jon Gruden will begin his quarterback orientation class on Monday at One Buc Place.

At least it will take a little longer to call the roll.

Tampa Bay agreed to terms on a one-year deal with former Redskins and Bears quarterback Shane Matthews Friday.

Details of the contract were not released, but it is believed Matthews will receive close to the veteran minimum salary of $750,000.

Matthews, 28, a 10-year veteran who played collegiately just 90 minutes north at the University of Florida, joins starter Brad Johnson and undrafted free agent Greg Zolman as the only quarterbacks on the roster.

But by the time Gruden's class begins Monday, there could be more.

The Bucs are considering offering a contract to Bears free agent Jim Miller, who is recovering from rotator cuff surgery. Coincidentally, Matthews backed up Miller during the Bears' 2001 season when Chicago finished 13-3.

Friday, former Raiders quarterback Bobby Hoying, who spent last season on injured reserve recovering from elbow surgery, worked out at One Buc Place.

Even with Matthews aboard, the Bucs would like to re-sign Shaun King. But King may have to accept close to the minimum salary and the role as a backup to Johnson _ a scenario that appears more unlikely each day.

Matthews, however, gushed about the opportunity to return to his adoptive home state and play for the world champions.

"Obviously, it's a place I've wanted to play my entire career and I'm looking forward to it," he said. "I'm extremely excited to play for Coach Gruden. I think he's the best coach out there. It's an outstanding organization, an outstanding team and I'm looking forward to getting started."

According to Matthews, he turned down a more lucrative two-year contract with the Vikings to join the Bucs and Gruden.

"I've got a lot of friends who live in the Tampa area," Matthews said. "I turned down a much better offer from the Vikings to come play in Tampa. I'm getting to the point in my career where I want to play for a winning team, a winning organization and play for a great coach. It's something I've dreamed about doing and I'm fortunate everything fell into place."

Seven of Matthews' 10 NFL seasons have been spent with the Bears (1993-96, 1999-2001). He played two seasons with the Panthers (1997-98) and was reunited with former Gators coach Steve Spurrier with the Redskins last season.

He set a career high with 11 touchdown passes in 2002 while passing for 1,251 yards and leading the team with a 72.6 quarterback rating. He played in eight games with seven starts in Washington, none better than his first. He was honored as the NFC offensive player of the week for his three-touchdown, 327-yard performance against the Cardinals in the season opener.

But the 6-3, 196-pound Matthews fell in and out of favor with his former college coach, losing his job to former Gator Danny Wuerffel and rookie Patrick Ramsey.

"It's always good to have a veteran quarterback who has played and won in the league," Bucs general manager Rich McKay said. "Shane is a quality kid and a tough competitor."

Matthews has started 22 of 28 games he has played in, passing for 4,712 yards and 30 touchdowns with a career rating of 74.4. A two-time Southeastern Conference player of the year, he entered the league in 1993 as an undrafted free agent with the Bears.

A career backup, he said he would have no problem carrying the clipboard for Johnson.

"Brad Johnson, obviously, he's the starter and he's had an outstanding year and he had an outstanding year last year," Matthews said. "But I'm going to come in and compete and try to push Brad and help him as much as possible. Obviously, I've got a lot of learning to do and I have to do it quickly. I understand that the Bucs are a tremendous team, and as a backup quarterback you have to be ready to play at any time. I'll be ready to play mentally and physically."

Known for his good decisionmaking and accuracy, Matthews said he should have no trouble fitting into Gruden's complex system.

"It's kind of a breath of fresh air, a new start for me. I'm looking forward to it," he said. "Coach Gruden's offense is very quarterback oriented and very quarterback friendly and I think I'll fit in extremely well. You have to be a smart player, you have to throw the ball extremely accurately and those are things I feel I do well."

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