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Saturday, Aug. 2, 2003

Buccaneers set for first game since victory in Super Bowl


Staff writer

The Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers officially showed up before Japanese fans for the first time since their arrival on Wednesday when they had an open practice session Friday morning at Tokyo Dome.

With about a hundred fans watching from the sidelines, the Buccaneers worked out for one hour and 45 minutes.

Among the Tampa Bay players, defensive tackle Warren Sapp was the most active. He proved he's ready for Saturday's American Bowl game against the New York Jets by showing great quickness and speed.

Sapp also shouted and yelled during the practice to encourage his the teammates.

It was not difficult to find coach Jon Gruden during the practice. All you had to do is follow the noise.

On almost every play run in practice, Gruden yelled at players whether the execution was good or a mistake had occurred.

"Our goal (for the American Bowl game) is to come out here and look at a lot of players and obviously, avoid injury," Gruden said. "We want to come out, execute full speed, play physical, finish plays and put on a good show for the people here and show what Tampa Bay Buccaneer football is all about.

"We have a lot of same players (from the Super Bowl winning team). We lost some young players to free agency, but the core leadership is still here. We have got to work at continuing to improve our chemistry, our morale, our unity. But I think this is the strength of this football team."

Before the Buccaneers took the field, the Jets practiced for an hour, spending time on formation plays and conditioning.

"I just want to see how we compete as one," Jets head coach Herman Edwards said. "(The Buccaneers) are coming off the world championship and I want to see how we play against them and how young players handle this game. That is going to be very important."

Edwards also vowed his team will throw the ball to Japanese wide receiver Yoshinobu Imoto during the game.

"We got one (designed play for Imoto) and that'll work. I'm open," Edwards said. "When he catches, that's the one (laughs). When he gets in, just be alert (laughs). He will not come in to block. We'll try to get him the ball."

Kickoff for Saturday's game is 6:00 PM and tickets are still available.



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