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WELCOME ... NOW REBUILD THAT DL!

When you watch him coolly puff on his grandfatherly pipe during offseason workouts, you don't see even a hint of all the unresolved issues facing defensive line coach Larry Coyer.

Truth is, this guy has no time to relax. Here's a peek at his agenda for the next couple of months:

Transform "little puppy" Gaines Adams from one-dimensional speed rusher to all-around defensive end; help Simeon Rice recapture his dominant form after a season-ending shoulder injury; find a place for new acquisition Kevin Carter; determine whether Ryan Sims has anything to offer; and work on rookie project Greg Peterson, who played in Division II.

Given the arduous task, bringing the 64-year-old veteran aboard might turn out to be one of the Bucs' better offseason moves.

And Coyer is already at it, particularly with Adams. Coyer - the Broncos' defensive coordinator the past seven seasons - envisions April's first-round pick taking his game to a higher level once he can add to his repertoire.

"Gaines will have to learn the same thing that I think will help Simeon get back to double digits (in sacks): put a little power in his game, make him ornery and they can't block him," Coyer said. "That's what he brings. He's a little puppy. I think the big key is don't get frustrated. It's a different league."

Coyer also is working to get the best out of Rice, who posted a career-low two sacks in an injury-shortened 2006. Rice, more than anyone, lamented the loss two years ago of line coach Rod Marinelli, now head coach in Detroit. So, it was wise of Coyer to open the lines of communication early with Rice, helping to build a relationship.

"He'll be ready pretty soon," Coyer said of the 33-year-old defensive end who wasn't at last week's voluntary workouts but will be once his rehab ends. "This guy is a guy who wants to play football. He's got 121 sacks. We're going to need him. His presence helps. The standard steps up."

As for Sims, an underachieving 2002 first-round pick who is something of a reclamation project after being traded to the Bucs this month, Coyer believes "there's something there." With Carter, Coyer lauds his versatility and seems intent on playing him at multiple positions. Coyer pushed to draft Peterson out of North Carolina Central, and seems to firmly believe he's a player.

After posting a dreadful 25 sacks in 2006, the Bucs made bringing back the pass rush a priority. And judging by his to-do list, Coyer's ability to succeed will be a major part of the equation.

LANDING BRIGGS A LONG SHOT: Don't get too carried away with talk the Bucs are interested in trading for disgruntled Lance Briggs.

The Pro Bowl weakside linebacker is unhappy about being designated Chicago's franchise player and hasn't signed the one-year tender. He is threatening to hold out if he doesn't get a long-term deal.

A recent report on NFL.com that said Briggs is pushing for a trade to the Redskins or Bucs. The Redskins are interested, but the Bucs have neither confirmed nor denied interest.

The obstacles to a deal are sizable. For one, there's the mega-money it will take to sign Briggs to a long-term contract. Then, there's the little matter of Briggs becoming the third big-name natural weakside linebacker on the roster. You've probably heard of Derrick Brooks. Then there's standout Cato June, who recently signed as a free agent.

And don't even think about it: Brooks isn't changing positions.

KEEP AN EYE OUT: Make sure to watch for second-year receiver Maurice Stovall come training camp. He should be afforded lots of opportunities because the Bucs think they can take advantage of his size (6-4, 229 pounds) and physicality. The kid won't fail for a lack of effort. During workouts the past several weeks, he has consistently been last off the field.

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at sholder@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3377.

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