Despite timing, Lee's a proud playmaker
Charles Lee's performance late in the season makes some wonder what the Bucs season might have been like had he been starting all along. The fourth-year wide receiver, who spent the first two seasons with Green Bay, had 88 yards and a touchdown Saturday with his team-high (and career-high) 10 receptions. In the five games - four starts - since the Bucs deactivated Keyshawn Johnson, Lee has 29 receptions for 373 yards. He had 13 catches for 166 yards in his first three seasons, most of which he spent inactive or on special teams.

What if he had started all season? "I thought about it, but what's done is done," Lee said. "I'm just trying to make the most of the opportunities I've been getting. "For the most part, I want to impress my teammates, like, "What's up with this guy? Why hasn't he been playing? He's making plays.' I'm just trying to be that spark for the team, so they can feed off my energy. Like, "Wow!' "

Jon Gruden said Lee has proven "he's a darned good NFL receiver."

The season's "been all right," Lee said. "I'm just doing my job, going out there, running around, trying to catch the ball, trying to block and have a little fun. That's the key part, trying to have fun while I'm out there. "Like that last drive; just being in the huddle with the guys, looking in everybody's eyes, everybody knowing, "Okay, we're going to get it done.' It's just too bad we came up one play short." Brad Johnson's last pass, the two-point conversion meant for Lee, was batted down.

"He's been tremendous," Johnson said. "I don't think he's dropped a ball. He's run great routes. He's a very dependable receiver. (Whether he returns) is out of my hands. I know I feel very comfortable with him, though."

Lee also wonders about 2004. "This is the National Football League. You never know what'll happen, who's going to come in. Whoever the new (general manager) is, he might decide to go in another direction. I hope I'm here."