Gannon's teammates have to be as protective of his body as they are of his reputation. They won't soon forget his departure from that AFC title game after mammoth Baltimore defensive tackle Tony Siragusa landed on Gannon and drove his right shoulder into the turf. "He actually hurt the shoulder on our third play of the game, when [defensive end Michael] McCrary jumped the snap count, came around our left side and blind-sided him," says Gruden.
During the off-season Oakland acquired additional receiving help for Gannon, bringing in sure-handed former Rams tight end Roland Williams to replace the undependable Rickey Dudley and signing former 49ers running back Charlie Garner to fill the scatback job formerly held by the retired Napoleon Kaufman. Unlike Kaufman, Garner is a gifted receiver, and he and Williams might catch more balls than Rice and fellow wideout Tim Brown, two of the most productive pass catchers in league history.
That won't be a problem, Gruden promises, as long as the headstrong Gannon is the guy making decisions. "That's the great thing about Gannon," Gruden says. "He doesn't discriminate when it comes to distributing the ball."