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Missing Bucs Coach Returns, Is Fired

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A Tampa Bay assistant coach reported missing by the Buccaneers since last weekend was fired after returning home from Atlanta and meeting with coach Tony Dungy.

Wendell Avery, a former college teammate of Dungy's who was in his second season as an offensive assistant, was let go Thursday so that he can resolve unspecified personal matters.

The team filed a missing person's report with Atlanta police on Monday, a day after Avery failed to show up for a game against the Falcons at the Georgia Dome. It's unclear exactly when he left the club, but the last team function he attended was a staff meeting at the team hotel Saturday night.

The Bucs had little to say about the situation while Avery, 44, was considered missing. And details remained sketchy after Dungy announced the dismissal following practice Thursday.

``Wendell has some personal issues that he's dealing with and based on that, it's our feeling that we let him concentrate on that. ... We're going to support him in his effort to get those personal issues straightened out,'' Dungy said.

Dungy said there are no plans to immediately fill Avery's position, which includes responsibilities for analyzing film of opponents and preparing scouting reports. Dungy also declined to speculate on the former offensive assistant's future with the club.

``We're really not looking at that at this point. We're just really going to concentrate on him getting things squared away,'' the coach said. ``What happens down the road, we'll evaluate later.''

Atlanta police believe Avery remained in that area throughout the time he was considered missing. He returned to Tampa Wednesday night and met with Dungy, who also spoke once with Avery by telephone earlier in the week.

``He got back in late last night, we talked and after talking it over among the organization and everyone involved, we just think this is the best way to go,'' the coach said of the dismissal.

``It's much more important that the person is taken care of, and the person's doing well, than what happens on the football field. That's where we are now, and hopefully we'll get that squared away.''
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