Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Stevens Breaks Out, Is Ready For Seahawks
TAMPA - Four months after being signed by the Bucs, Jerramy Stevens finally arrived. The sixth-year tight end will return to the Pacific Northwest next weekend for the season opener at Qwest Field, tuning up in impressive style against Houston in Thursday night's preseason finale. Stevens had only two receptions through three exhibition games before breaking out with seven catches for 100 yards in the Bucs' 31-24 victory against Houston. Luke McCown and Stevens hooked up five times for 57 yards in the opening half as the 6-foot-7 target flashed the skills that prompted Tampa Bay to sign him as a free agent April 29.'I'm excited about the opportunity to show my teammates and coaches that I'm here to help us win,' Stevens said. 'I've got to thank the coaches for putting me in a lot of matchups tonight that I could win. I like it here a lot, and I appreciate this opportunity to go forward and keep all that other stuff in my past, where it belongs.' A series of off-the-field problems fueled Stevens' departure from Seattle, but the Bucs added him to a tight end stable that includes Alex Smith and Anthony Becht. Stevens has made no public miscues as a Buccaneer, but he wasn't perfect Thursday. On the first snap of the third quarter, Stevens hauled in a 22-yard pass from Bruce Gradkowski but fumbled when hit by linebacker Shantee Orr. Stevens turned a Gradkowski flip into a 21-yard gain later in the third quarter, but most of his damage came before intermission. McCown and Stevens clicked from the start, combining for two receptions and 33 yards during a first-quarter touchdown drive. The 28th player selected in the 2002 draft, Stevens helped the Seahawks to the NFC title in 2005, when he caught a career-high 45 passes during the regular season and excelled in the playoffs with 11 catches, including two scoring receptions. Branded as a problem player after being involved in six police incidents in a nine-year span, Stevens appears determined to shed that image. He is motivated to face the Seahawks on Sept. 9 and prove they used poor judgment in releasing a talented 27-year-old player just entering his prime. 'He's a very talented young man working his way into a new team and trying to fit in,' said Bucs tight ends coach Bob Casullo, who also came from the Seahawks. 'He finally had a chance to shine tonight. Jerramy wants to leave the past behind. He's in a nice place, and he knows he's got to do the right things.'