Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Leftwich plays role of mentor
TAMPA - Byron Leftwich has no illusions about his new job as the Bucs' starting quarterback. With rookie Josh Freeman waiting in the wings, he knows he's little more than a temporary fix at the position. Surprisingly, Leftwich seems to be at ease with his role as seat warmer for Freeman. In fact, it's a role the 29-year-old veteran began embracing long before he earned it. "As a veteran in this league it's almost my duty to do the things for him that guys like Steve McNair and Donovan McNabb did for me when I was a kid," Leftwich said. "So I'm just trying to pass it on." Few are better positioned to pass it on than Leftwich. After all, as a former first-round pick of the Jaguars, he has been where Freeman is now. And already he has passed on a lot.To hear Leftwich tell it, he already has shown Freeman the route his career will likely take and pointed out a lot of the potholes that could result in breakdowns or detours along the way. "If you're a starting quarterback in this league, I don't care how good you are, they're going to put you in the blender at some point and they're going to hit liquefy and you're going to have to be able to take it," Leftwich said. "You're going to have to be able to observe it and not lose the confidence you have in yourself and still have the determination and the mind-set and the ability to go out there and play well. "I mean, I've been through it all. I've been booed and I've been called the greatest thing since sliced bread. It just comes with playing the position, and so I'm trying to prepare him for that." It's probably several years away, at least, but Leftwich is also trying to prepare Freeman for the day when the Bucs or another team decides it is Freeman's turn to be the mentor. "I told him that one day they're going to draft somebody and you're going to be in this same situation that I'm in now and you've got to make sure you help that guy out," Leftwich said. "That's kind of your job, because it makes the game better, and as a player you should want to see the guy that's coming up behind you do great things and have success." Flip-flop Bucs coach Raheem Morris was the one who came up with the idea of moving Jermaine Phillips to linebacker in the first place, and he's not going to give up on the idea very easily. Though the suspension of Tanard Jackson for four games has forced Phillips to go back to playing safety, Morris intends to move Phillips back to linebacker as soon as he can. "My long-term (plan) was for him to go to linebacker," Morris said. "I think he has a chance at a second career there. He's kind of like Rodney Harrison with New England. They didn't want to change his number, but when you saw him he was always standing at the end of the line of scrimmage at the snap. Players like that get second careers. They move around, and I just saw a chance (with Phillips) to have a 30-year-old special player. So we'll see. Maybe I can get back to that." It seems that someone in the organization never believed in the Phillips-to-linebacker move. Phillips is listed in the Bucs' media guide as a safety. Witch's brew If you believe what you read in the National Enquirer - and who doesn't - then you have to believe the Bucs have gotten an assist in their efforts to beat the Cowboys in the season opener. According to the Enquirer, singer/actress Jessica Simpson recently secured the services of a "witch" to put a curse on Simpson's former boyfriend, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. We're not making this up. According to the Enquirer's story, Simpson and the "witch" met at Simpson's Beverly Hills hotel and proceeded to light a candle, burn incense and perform "a couple of incantations." Simpson is apparently steamed over Romo's decision to dump her just before her 29th birthday last month, and in addition to rooting for every team Romo faces, she has been "cozying up to" Redskins quarterback Colt Brennan. This, too, is according to the Enquirer.
Reporter Roy Cummings can be reached at (813) 259-7979.