Neither Kiffin nor Bucs answering if he'll return or go with son to Vols

Updated: December 2, 2008, 9:44 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

TAMPA, Fla. -- Although the Tampa Bay Buccaneers expect to have Monte Kiffin drawing up defensive game plans for the rest of the season, his future with the NFC South co-leaders remains unclear.

Neither Kiffin or the Bucs have done anything to end speculation that the 68-year-old defensive coordinator has decided to leave the NFL to work for his son, Lane, the new coach at the University of Tennessee.

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Sources told ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen that Monte Kiffin would in fact join Lane with the Vols.

Bucs general manager Bruce Allen said Monday he knows how the situation will play out, but would not disclose whether Monte Kiffin is staying or will give up a $2 million salary that makes him one of the highest-paid defensive assistants in the league.

"This really has been addressed some time ago with Monte. We feel very comfortable that we know what's taking place," Allen said. "We'll let Monte make any comments he wants to make and respect his views when he does."

Coach Jon Gruden said either way, Kiffin will be with Tampa Bay at least through the end of the season.

Kiffin was unavailable for comment. After the Bucs (9-3) intercepted Drew Brees three times and slowed down the NFL's top-ranked offense during a 23-20 victory over New Orleans on Sunday, he dismissed reports he intends to leave as "just speculation."

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"It's going to persist. I don't have any update. ... Monte's the guy to talk to," Gruden said during his weekly news conference. "I'll just say this -- we're excited to have won the game, and I can only comment on the Buccaneers."

Under Kiffin's leadership, Tampa Bay's defense has allowed the fewest points in the NFL since 1997 and ranked in the top 10 in fewest yards allowed 10 of the last 11 seasons, including nine straight from 1997-2005.

Gruden said he doesn't expect questions about Kiffin's future to affect the focus of the players as the team tries to repeat as NFC South champions.

"A lot of our coaches are sought-after every year and Monte's sought-after every year. He should be," Gruden said. "But I'm not worried about any distractions. We've got a great opportunity ahead of us, and we want to take advantage of it."

Allen said there have been discussions before about the possibility of Kiffin leaving Tampa Bay to join his son. There was also dialogue when Lane became head coach of the Oakland Raiders in 2007 and prior to that when he was considering a job at the University of Minnesota.

Lane Kiffin said at his news conference in Knoxville:

"I'm not talking about any names today on the staff due to respect of the contracts those guys may be under. When it's all said and done, you'll be extremely happy about the staff that comes here."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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