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AFC/ OAKLAND REPORT

Buccaneers Not What He Wanted

January 23, 2003|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

LA JOLLA — Regan Upshaw was delighted to be chosen in the first round of the NFL draft.

But he wasn't delighted to become a Buccaneer.

The Raider defensive end recounted Wednesday his thoughts when Tampa Bay made him the No. 12 pick in the 1996 draft: "I don't want to go to Tampa. I don't even know where Tampa is, and I didn't like the color of the old uniforms, the orange and white. I thought it was ugly.... I think I saw them play one time on TV my whole life."

Times have changed for Upshaw, who came to the Raiders in 2000 after a brief stint in Jacksonville, and they've obviously changed for the Buccaneers.

"I think so now," he said when asked if Tampa Bay's reputation has changed. "You have Florida, no state taxes, good weather, beaches. People want to go to Tampa. The [bad] reputation is gone."

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Oakland's starting cornerbacks, Charles Woodson and Tory James, both suffered leg fractures this season and are playing with metal plates keeping their bones in place. The Raiders have adjusted their responsibilities accordingly.

"With Charles and Tory coming off the injuries, we've changed up a little bit," defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan said. "We've changed and mixed up the coverages a little bit more, so they could get back in the rhythm more than anything else. We're not concerned about their injuries. We're ready to play. We just have to be smart because of the rhythm."

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Tim Brown is convinced he has multiple seasons left in his legs, even at age 36. After all, Jerry Rice is still going strong at 40.

"At this particular point, I know I want to come back next year," Brown said. "I think it's really going to come down to what the Raiders want to do in the future. If they come to the older guys and say, 'Hey, look, we appreciate it, but it's time to move on,' then we're really going to have to re-evaluate what we want to do and go on from there. But at this point I'm not thinking about retirement. I'm just thinking about Sunday."

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DeLawrence Grant, a Raider defensive end, grew up in Compton and has purchased about 15 tickets for family members, among them his mother, a Los Angeles bus driver.

"I'm still dreaming," Grant said of making it to the Super Bowl in his second season. "It's crazy because I grew up a Raider fan. The people in my family are Raider fans. I'm playing for a team I grew up watching, and then to get to the Super Bowl? In Southern California, at home? It's big."

So, by the way, is Grant, who's hard to miss at 6 feet 3, 280 pounds. But he isn't the only athlete in his family; his mother was a standout basketball and softball player.

"She has more trophies than I have," he said.

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Going by the notoriously low numbers in the Raider media guide, the average weight of a starter on Oakland's offensive line is 323 pounds. Left tackle Barry Sims is the lightest at 305 pounds, and right tackle Lincoln Kennedy is heaviest at 335.

"I think it's a great advantage for us because we can lay on them for the whole game and eventually wear them down," said guard Mo Collins, listed at 325. "We use our size to grind and grind. Eventually, we hit a big running play, or give Rich [Gannon] the time to hit a big one."

Tampa Bay's defensive line is smallish but maybe one of the fastest in NFL history.

"You have to prepare and game plan to slow them down," Collins said. "But the main thing is you have to be patient. If you're too aggressive, you'll extend and they'll be gone. If you jump at them, you'll make a mistake."

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