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The Bradsher Beat
Friday, September 1, 2006

By Bethany Bradsher

Straight answers to 'Where are they now?'

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If I could, I would create a special visual aid to accompany this column. To coincide with the heart of hurricane season, I would make an “Ex-Pirates Tracker,” an elaborate network of depths charts and transaction lists that would show the status of every former ECU player who is trying to make it in the National Football League.

But sadly, I am no graphic artist, so all I can offer are the plain facts:

While the Dallas area and the nation are being force fed around-the-clock coverage of Terrell Owens’s rebel act with the Cowboys, the Pirates' own T.C. has been one of the beneficiaries of T.O.’s absence.

Terrance Copper, who is entering his third season in Dallas in a mostly special teams role, is currently listed as Owens’s backup at the left receiver spot, and most observers agree that he has been able to get more exposure because of his superstar teammate’s conspicuous absence.

According to reports from the Cowboys’ camps, rookie wide receivers like Sam Hurd and Jamaica Rector are competing hard with Copper for one of the final 53 roster spots.

Vonta Leach is slated as the backup to fullback William Henderson in Green Bay, but Leach is another former Pirate who might have a road to opportunity because of an injury to Henderson.

The Packers employ a zone blocking system brought to the team by offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski. A former assistant coach at East Carolina, Jagodzinski said on the Packers' website that the system lends itself well to more diverse athletes who aren’t necessarily huge, hard-hitting blockers. Several of the other backs competing for the position with Leach are actually tailbacks trying their hand at the zone version of the fullback.

Two athletes who once did their hitting and blocking in Dowdy-Ficklen, Damane Duckett and Guy Whimper, are fighting for final roster consideration in the Meadowlands. Duckett is in his third year with the Giants and Whimper is a rookie, but both were considered “bubble players” going into Thursday’s preseason finale against New England.

"I'm definitely going at it this game," Duckett told The Journal-News, a New York newspaper. "Gotta get that money, dawg."

With three of the defensive tackle spots already assumed to be taken by Barry Cofield, Fred Robbins and William Joseph, Duckett is one of four tackles battling for the last spot.

In a rookie review on, Whimper was praised for his athleticism, but he was known to struggle early in the preseason with penalties.

“Whimper improved in the second game,” the report said. “He showed decent run and pass blocking, with no penalties and minimal mistakes. This will sort of be a red shirt season for Whimper. He will make the roster and learn to play the pro tackle position under Bob Whitfield.”

Plenty of Jacksonville Jaguars fans were hoping for a quarterback controversy during this preseason, but head coach Jack Del Rio refused to grant them their wish. Veteran signal caller Byron Leftwich is still the guy, and he has to lose the job to give former Pirate standout David Garrard another chance to take over.

Speculation was rampant in Jacksonville that Garrard might have a chance to move out of the second chair, especially when he was given more repetitions than usual during training camp. But during last week’s preseason game against Carolina, Garrard limped through his possessions with two interceptions and three fumbles.

Offensive guard Brian Rimpf, who earned a steady backup role with the Ravens last season, still has a grip on the second-string left guard position, but he has missed more than half of the preseason with a severe hamstring injury.

Baltimore’s official website reported that Rimpf took part in sideline conditioning drills this week, kindling hope that he might take the field in the early part of the season. When he was first injured about three weeks ago, team officials thought he might have torn his hamstring.

Representing an earlier generation of Pirates, 2005 Pro Bowler Rod Coleman is the starting defensive tackle with the Falcons, continuing a career that has been consistently solid since he finished at ECU in 1999. One of his teammates, Dwayne Ledford, is now listed as third on the depth chart at center for the Saints.

A few Pirates who started spring mini-camps representing NFL teams are now looking for other employment. Tackle Shaun Rose, a 2000 graduate, was waived from the Raiders in 2000. Defensive back Zach Baker (Steelers) and defensive tackle Ja’Warren Blair (Browns) were both cut from their respective rosters on August 28, and the Cardinals reached an injury settlement with Devone Claybrooks and released him on August 19.

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02/23/2007 01:13:16 AM

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