Tampa Bay Buccaneers weakside linebacker Lavonte David is putting last season’s Pro Bowl snub  behind him and looking toward the immediate future. He’s got a new defense he’s mastering, and some lofty expectations under new head coach Lovie Smith, who’s openly compared him to Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks.
Thankfully for David, there haven’t been a whole lot of changes between his roles in Greg Schiano’s defense the last two years versus this year’s under Smith, except that it’s a more simplified scheme, one that involves less thinking, which hopefully translates into guys flying to the ball faster.
“It’s just giving me an opportunity to play faster, an opportunity to see the whole field and learn everything, learn what everybody is doing,” David said after the team’s final mincamp practice last week. “It hasn’t changed nothing much. I’m still in the position where I can make plays.”
David was asked to blitz a number of times in previous head coach Greg Schiano’s defense, finishing the 2013 season with seven sacks. That may change, however. When asked if he’d still be blitzing, he responded, “Every here and there…every now and then. They just try to keep it as simple as they can so far. Hopefully we can keep it going like that.”
Regardless of the specifics of his new role, one thing is certain — he’s gaining a wealth of insight from Buccaneer legend Hardy Nickerson, aka “El Dragon,” who now coaches the linebackers, igniting the unit every day with the same fire he did as captain of the Bucs defense.
“He’s always getting guys amped up. He’s always getting this adrenaline like he wishes he could be out there. When you see that out of your coach, it kind of raises your level. You kind of want to put a smile on his face, the way he coaches us and the way that he teaches us.”
He’s already learned quite a bit from Nickerson, who spent seven seasons in Tampa Bay, helping the Bucs rise from obscurity to defensive prominence. It culminated in a trip to the NFC Championship in 1999. He was also named to the NFL 1990s All-Decade team.
“Never get complacent. Never get complacent,” David said on the lessons he’s learned from Nickerson. “Every day, take it one day at a time. Every day, you can always learn something new. And then, from a guy who played 16 years in this league, you always get the chance to pick his brain — not only me, but the whole linebacking corps, it’s a great privilege for us.”
And as far as that Pro Bowl snub from last year? Being designated All-Pro did provide some validation. David said it wouldn’t matter one way or the other.
“Every time I come out, I have a chip on my shoulder. That’s just the way I play. I love the game of football and I just try to go out and have fun. I’ve put that behind me and it’s a whole ‘nother year.”