M. Lewis waits as Bucs bid on Gruden

Ravens coordinator in line if Raiders balk

February 06, 2002|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis will become the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' head coach if the team's last-ditch effort to pluck Jon Gruden from the Oakland Raiders falls through, a league source confirmed yesterday.

At the request of the team's owners, Buccaneers general manager Rich McKay has begun negotiating with Raiders owner Al Davis on a package of draft picks, players or a combination of both to obtain the rights to hire Gruden. Gruden has one year left on his contract, and his agent has said the coach will not return to Oakland after next season.

According to the source, Tampa Bay has imposed a deadline to get the deal done no later than today. But the Raiders aren't known to be agreeable to ultimatums and may look to extend the talks through the end of the week.

The Orlando Sentinel reported in today's editions that the Raiders are believed to be seeking five-time Pro-Bowl defensive tackle Warren Sapp as part of the deal, a request that would not necessarily scuttle the conversations, team sources told the newspaper.

Oakland could have a big hole to fill in its defensive line after its Pro Bowl tackle, Darrell Russell, was charged last week with 25 felony counts of sexual assault.

If the Buccaneers fail to acquire Gruden, they would hire Lewis, the Ravens' only defensive coordinator in their six-year history.

A source also indicated that the Washington Redskins will seek permission to talk to Lewis about their defensive coordinator position if he doesn't go to Tampa Bay. Lewis' contract with the Ravens expired at the end of the season.

Lewis did not return phone calls yesterday.

"It's tough watching Marvin go through this," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "And it does extend us in terms of pulling the trigger on our coaching moves. This is the way it is because we have to wait on what Tampa decides."

The Ravens' coaching staff, meanwhile, made another change yesterday as special teams coach Russ Purnell was hired by the Indianapolis Colts. In Purnell's third and possibly most successful season with the Ravens, the special teams were ranked among the top five in seven categories, including second in average start after a kickoff return (31.2) and opponent's field-goal percentage (.576).

But the Ravens were pursuing Gary Zauner, the former Minnesota Vikings special teams coordinator, prompting Purnell to look for another job. The Ravens will hire Zauner later this week."[The Colts'] Tony Dungy is an outstanding coach and Russ will fit in very well with their style of play," Billick said.

Now, the Ravens wait as Lewis waits.

If Lewis is selected as the Buccaneers' coach today or tomorrow, the Ravens are planning to present their new-look staff by the end of the week.

The Ravens have promoted defensive assistant Mike Smith to linebackers coach and would elevate receivers coach Mike Nolan to Lewis' defensive coordinator post if he gets the Tampa Bay job.

"Fortunately, we're structured in a way that it's not going to catch us off-guard," Billick said.

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