Bucs' Jurevicius arrives as newborn improves

He tries to focus, as does Raider Brown, due twins

Pro Football

Super Bowl notebook

January 23, 2003|By Ken Murray and Jamison Hensley | Ken Murray and Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

SAN DIEGO - Reassured by the progress of his hospitalized newborn son, Tampa Bay wide receiver Joe Jurevicius reported to the Buccaneers' Super Bowl camp one day late and practiced with the team yesterday.

"I spent the last day-and-a-half in Tampa with my wife and my son, and he's fighting and doing a little bit better right now," Jurevicius said. "He still has a long way to go before he is out of the woods, but he is making a little bit of improvement every day."

Meagan Jurevicius gave birth to a one-month premature baby boy last week and complications forced the five-year veteran to miss all of the Bucs' practices before the NFC championship game in Philadelphia.

Still, he played and made a game-turning, 71-yard catch and run that helped the Bucs beat the Eagles, 27-10, to reach the Super Bowl.

Jurevicius' son remains in a prenatal intensive care unit in Tampa. Jurevicius missed the team flight to San Diego on Monday.

"I feel bad that I'm leaving my family, but it is my last week of work," he said. "That is in the back of my mind and it is refreshing to know that this is the last week of work and next week I can be there 24/7."

Bucs coach Jon Gruden yesterday acknowledged that Jurevicius was struggling mentally with his son's condition.

"We are here for him to support him, but this is professionally the greatest time of his life," Gruden said. "He is one of our few players who has been to a Super Bowl. So we need his leadership and expertise because we are all new to this."

First time's the charm

Oakland Raiders coach Bill Callahan has reached an elite group among rookie coaches.

Only twice previously had a coach gotten this far in his first year as an NFL head coach - Don McCafferty with the 1970 Baltimore Colts and George Seifert with the 1989 San Francisco 49ers.

"You can call it beginner's luck, I guess," Callahan said. "I'm surrounded by a lot of great professionals. ... I'm awfully proud of what we've accomplished."

Twin focus

Raiders receiver Tim Brown waited 15 seasons for his first Super Bowl. But he's also waiting any day now for his wife to give birth to twins.

"For the last four weeks, I've been able to separate the two," Brown said. "It's either or. When I am on the field, I have to concentrate on football. When I'm off the field, I think about [my wife] all the time. As long as I know that everything is going well, I am happy with that."

Cardinal rule

Tampa Bay's roster is dotted with former Arizona/Phoenix draft picks, proof that the Cardinals have had talent, said Bucs defensive end Simeon Rice.

Rice, running back Michael Pittman, center Jeff Christy and punter Tom Tupa all started with the Cardinals.

"We had a good team at one point," said Rice, who signed with Tampa in 2001 as a free agent. "I didn't really want to leave because I didn't want to say I didn't help change things there.

"We had the people. We just didn't continue to build on what we had."

Rock solid

The Bucs have a unique pregame ritual they will keep alive on Sunday. In the name of team unity, they have a rock they all pound before going out to play.

"We try to crack that rock open," Gruden said. "The rock is here; it will be unveiled Sunday."

Black Hole South

San Diego officials are bracing for Black Hole South.

Hordes of Raiders fans are expected to make the 7 1/2 -hour drive down the coast to the game. Some of the Raider Nation - including those who dress in black jerseys with spikes sticking out of their shoulder pads - began arriving Tuesday.

"We're all leaving town," said Dave Cohen, the spokesman for the San Diego Police Department. "We've got some experience with Raider fans."

Two years ago, a Raiders fan stabbed a Chargers fan during a game at Qualcomm Stadium.

Good old days

If the Raiders aren't being asked about their showdown with Gruden, they are being questioned about their age.

Oakland has eight starters 30 years or older, including Jerry Rice (age 40), Bill Romanowski (36), Rod Woodson (37) and Rich Gannon (36).

But Raiders running back Randy Jordan, 32, put their NFL age in perspective.

"In dog years, we're pretty old," Jordan said. "In dog years, I think they'd shoot me."

In a tight spot

Oakland rookie Marcus Williams went on injured reserve, further depleting the Raiders' depth at tight end.

Williams is the third tight end in two weeks to be declared out.

Rookie Doug Jolley is the starter, but his only backup is veteran Jeremy Brigham, who was re-signed Tuesday after getting cut in training camp.

It's in the patch

Asked the difference between a Raider and a Buccaneer, Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp didn't miss a beat.

"The patch is on the other eye," he said, grinning widely.

End zone

Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis will be a guest co-host of ESPN's NFL Matchup. The show will air Saturday night and Sunday morning.

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