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Despite stalled talks for contract extension, LB Ruud back with Bucs

TAMPA, Fla. -- After a futile attempt to accelerate progress toward a contract extension with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, linebacker Barrett Ruud is back on the practice field with his teammates.

The fifth-year pro skipped all 14 of the club's voluntary offseason workouts, but he's participating in this week's mandatory minicamp that wraps up the squad's preparation for the start of training camp on July 31.

2008 Statistics
G/GS: 16/16

Tackles: 137

Sacks: 3

"I was hoping to sort of speed things along a little bit," Rudd said of his decision to work out on his own at the University of Nebraska instead of joining the Bucs for organized team activities (OTAs) over the past month.

Rudd is scheduled to earn about $1.6 million this fall in the final season of a contract he signed as a rookie in 2005. He's led the Bucs in tackles the past two years and is the club's lone returning starter at linebacker.

"I'd like to be here for a long time. I've really enjoyed the organization. It's a first-class organization and a great community, and I like my teammates," Ruud said. "In that respect, I am disappointed things haven't progressed."

Ruud was non-commital about whether he will report for the start of training camp without a new deal.

"All I can control is what I do on the field right now. All I can do is worry about playing as good as I can. I'd like to think everything will take care of itself, but that's to be seen, I guess," he said, adding that there have been no discussions on an extension.

Meanwhile, he's catching up on the terminology for a new system being installed by defensive coordinator Jim Bates, who has abandoned the Tampa Two scheme the Bucs played the past 13 seasons under Monte Kiffin.

"I kept in contact with the coaches. I still have a pretty good concept of the defense. I'm a little bit behind my teammates ... but I'm happy where I'm at physically. I feel great, I feel explosive, I feel ready," Ruud said. "I have to kick the conditioning up for July, but I feel good about where I am going into training camp."

Coach Raheem Morris said he's excited to have Ruud with the team for minicamp and that he doesn't anticipate the middle linebacker having any difficulty catching up on what he missed during OTAs.

It helps, he said, that Ruud remained in touch with linebackers coach Joe Barry and others on the staff.

"He's been calling to inquire, so Barrett Ruud has been a part of the team," Morris said. "He just hasn't been here in a physical form."

Meanwhile, Ruud said he intends to use the break between minicamp and training camp to continue to prepare for the season -- not to become preoccupied with his contract situation.

"My focus," he said, "is on having a good year."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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