Insider: Bucs Rookie Camp Notebook

Some notes, quotes, and observations from the Bucs’ rookie camp at Once Buc Place:

  • Tired legs were an issue after the first day, especially in the morning on Saturday, according to Greg Schiano.  “Early (Saturday) morning, we had some dead legs.  Now it picked up some later in practice, and this afternoon it picked up some.  I thought they did a good job.  They’re working very hard, for the limited amount of offense and defense that’s in.  They’re doing a good job with it.”
  • I had the chance to speak with RB Michael Smith after practice, and observe the physical specimen that he is.  Smith is diminutive, but with a very thick frame, which, combined with his speed, helps him become a more effective blocker than some might give him credit for.  “I use my speed to my advantage.  I hit them before they hit me, so I get there quicker than them.  It’s a great advantage.”
  • Smith and fellow RB draftee Doug Martin roomed together at camp.  Smith says that he and Martin have been studying the playbook together and learning the plays.  Given that the tandem will be counted on to bring different aspects to the running back position than LeGarrette Blount brings, namely, blocking, speed, and soft hands, it’s good to hear that they are forming a bond early.
  • Schiano said that, while it’s hard to evaluate the number of defensive lineman that are working to make a name for themselves in this camp, there are some things he can look at and evaluate in determining whether a player has a chance to help the Bucs.  “It’s hard.  What you try to evaluate is their suddenness, their explosion into a sled.  There’s an old saying among coaches: you have to learn to beat a sled first before you beat a man.  If the sled hits your back, you’ve got a problem.  And then you can see their flexibility, the way they can turn their body.  Defensive line(men), although they’re big guys, they have to be flexible.  They need to be able to contort their bodies in ways to rush the passer that are not necessarily normal.  We were able to get a good look at that.”
  • When I asked LB Najee Goode about the difficulty of adjusting from a college system to a more complicated scheme, Goode shrugged his shoulders slightly and seemed pretty unphased. “Really, football is football. You come in, the main thing coaches want you to do is pick it up quickly and execute it quickly.  They give us time to do it.  They give us chances to mess up like we did in college.”  Goode said the coaches are looking at him at middle and weakside linebacker so far.
  • The Bucs are expected to announce a limited number of signings of training camp invitees on Monday.  One of those players reportedly will be former LSU QB Jordan Jefferson.  Jefferson received national attention last year when he was arrested for felony assault arising out of an incident outside a Baton Rouge bar, where he was accused of kicking a man in the head.  The charge was later reduced by a Baton Rouge grand jury to simple battery, and Jefferson was able to return to the Tigers after a five game suspension.  Jefferson will likely battle Zach Collaros and Brett Ratliff for the third quarterback position.
  • Schiano said that, while Mark Barron has recovered from hernia surgery, he is not quite 100% yet. Barron underwent surgery in February, and told me that the team brought him in for a visit during the pre-draft process, in part to evaluate his recovery from surgery.  Clearly, the injury didn’t concern Mark Dominik and the Bucs’ brain trust then, and isn’t impeding his offseason activities now. 
  • Keith Tandy earned high praise from Schiano this weekend.  Tandy has the skills to step in at cornerback or safety, according to his head coach. “He has great zone ball skills.  Some guys are man-to-man guys.  Other than that, they struggle.  He is not.  He is a complete defensive back.  I think he has zone skills, man skills, press skills, off skills.  So, that’s really why. We just need to see where he fits best right now with the Bucs today.  I think he does have versatility that we’re gonna be able to mix and match depending on where needed.
  • I get the impression that CB Leonard Johnson is standing out from some of the rest of the undrafted free agents at camp.  Although Schiano did not offer a name when asked about players that have caught his attention, he had high praise for the former Iowa State defensive back.  “Leonard’s a good football player.  When you play someone in a bowl game, you watch all twelve of their games, and he continued throughout every game that we watched.  He showed up.  So I had a good idea of what kind of player he was.  When we got through the draft evaluations, again, I thought he was a good player.  I think we have a good opportunity with Leonard.”