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Rice adds to discipline problems

Defensive end Simeon Rice, who recently criticized coach Jon Gruden for the Bucs' lack of discipline, admitted he was part of the problem after missing the team walk-through Saturday in Arizona.

Rice, who stayed at his condo in Phoenix rather than the team hotel, arrived at Sun Devil Stadium only to discover the morning session was at another location.

"I missed practice, so I fall right in suit," said Rice, who started Sunday.

"We have to clean a lot of things up from an intrinsic standpoint. All the B.S. is going to stop. I think (Gruden is) going to throw this back to what we've been accustomed to. You can only sink so low before you bounce so high."

PROVING HIMSELF: Ian Gold, who played out of position at strongside linebacker this season, might not want to do so again. Gold is a natural weakside linebacker, the same as eight-time Pro Bowl player Derrick Brooks.

"I don't want to speculate on Derrick's situation or mine, but they're going to make the best decision for the team," Gold said. "Derrick is a great player. I have a lot of respect for him. I think he deserves to end his career as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. But I want to play."

Gold, who signed as a free agent from Denver eager to prove his surgically repaired knee was healthy, was third on the team with 114 tackles, including four for losses. He also had an interception and a half-sack as the strongside linebacker, who comes off the field for a fifth defensive back in passing situations.

"I shut the critics up," Gold said. "I think I had a pretty good season given the circumstances and the position I was playing."

COACHING CAROUSEL: At least two assistants might not return. Special-teams coach Rich Bisaccia is believed to be a candidate to coach running backs at Notre Dame under first-year coach Charlie Weis. Defensive backs coach Mike Tomlin, whose contract expires, was approached by teams last year to become a coordinator.

TOUGH DEFENSE: The Bucs ranked among the top 10 in the league in total defense for the eighth consecutive season, the longest streak in the league, after allowing an average of 284.5 yards, fifth fewest.

Tampa Bay ranked No. 1 against the pass at 161.2 yards per game but 19th against the run at 123.3 yards. The Bucs also had the best pass defense in 2002.

NEW DIGS: The cramped conditions and outdated accommodations at One Buc Place are growing old. Though ground has not been broken, construction on a new facility planned for the site of Tampa Bay Center mall needs to be a priority, Gruden said.

"Not for me, but for the players," he said. "When you have 15 players on (injured reserve), there is not enough butts that we can fit in the training room. I believe a great facility will permeate winning. Coming into a state-of-the-art facility like the Glazers have in mind will pump up the football team."

BUC BITS: Brian Griese set team records for passer rating (97.5) and completion percentage (69.3), besting Brad Johnson's marks of 92.9 and 62.3 from 2002. Left tackle Derrick Deese injured his MCL on Sunday and was expected to have an MRI exam Monday.

_ JOANNE KORTH, Times staff writer

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