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Published: 5/9/2006

Gradkowski gets some high praise from Bucs coach at rookies' camp

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
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Bruce Gradkowski thinks he had a pretty good weekend at his first NFL minicamp.

More importantly, so does Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden.

"Strong, very strong," was Gruden's response when asked the impression made by his sixth-round draft pick from the University of Toledo.

Gradkowski was one of only two quarterbacks at the three-day rookie camp and got the bulk of the work over tryout player Jay Davis from North Carolina State.

"It went very well," Gradkowski said. "The big challenge is handling the verbiage and communications in the huddle, but I'm confident it won't be a problem."

Gradkowski has to learn a traditional NFL system where sophisticated plays are called in the huddle.

"He's not used to being in the huddle calling plays," Gruden said during his post-camp media session in Tampa. "He's called the majority of plays himself at the line of scrimmage with some help from the sidelines.

"So, just the language, speaking the language, is a challenge for him at this point. But he's got a lot of talent, he's very mobile and we're really pleased with what we saw."

At UT, where he set 19 school passing records, Gradkowski most often operated in a no-huddle offense. At the line, he would call out blocking assignments to the offensive linemen and everyone else would follow his voice and hand signals.

"I'm not used to communicating so much language for each play in a huddle," Gradkowski said. "And it has to be done so fast. Coach Gruden preaches an up-tempo game, get it and go, and that includes play-calling in the huddle.

"But I'm up for the challenge. I'm not the first guy to go through that type of transition and coach Gruden said he was impressed with how I handled it last weekend.

"We only put in about 10 percent of the playbook, though, so there's a lot of work ahead."

Gradkowski said it was a pleasure to be learning from Gruden, a noted offensive mind who calls all the Bucs' plays, and quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett, a one-time head coach on the college level at Pitt and Southern Cal.

Gradkowski is spending this week at his family's home in Pittsburgh and will return to Tampa next Monday to begin off-season workouts with the entire Bucs roster.

He'll be working with and competing against returning starter Chris Simms and veteran NFL backups Tim Rattay and Luke McCown.

"I'm already excited about going back," Gradkowski said. "This is a great opportunity for me."

Contact Dave Hackenberg at:

dhack@theblade.com

or 419-724-6398



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