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Bucs hope trio avoids hitting rookie wall
By Rick Stroud, Times Staff Writer
In Print: Sunday, November 25, 2012
Considering the number of NFL games he has played since August, S Mark Barron normally would be shutting it down after winning a national title at Alabama.
RB Doug Martin no longer would be running on the Smurf Turf at Boise State, having returned from a bowl game in Las Vegas.
LB Lavonte David would have squeezed all the juice from the season with Nebraska's trip to the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.
Ten weeks into the NFL season is when first-year players typically begin to hit what is known as the rookie wall, banging into the rock-hard reality of physical and mental fatigue.
All three players have filled enormous roles for the Bucs this season. Barron (picked sixth overall) is third with 57 tackles. Martin (31st) is among the league's top rookies with 1,000 yards rushing. David (58th) leads the team in tackles with 90.
Bucs coach Greg Schiano says his staff has monitored the energy level of the rookies and believes they are handling the marathon that is the NFL season pretty well.
"A lot of it is mental," Schiano said. "It's kind of like when you're working out. If you say you're going to do 10 reps, at nine, you start straining. If you say you're going to do 12, you fly past nine. So we don't want to make too big a deal of it with our guys because the reality is the guys who are playing, who are young, are well-conditioned athletes. I think our coaches do a really good job of taking care of them in practice, limiting the reps they can.
"We stress it, and they do it; taking care of their bodies. I think that's one of the biggest parts of being a true professional. It's taking that extra time in the tubs. And with the massage people and with all the treatments, do you just leave the building and get out of here?"
Typically, that's the biggest adjustment for young players. Their bodies recover pretty quickly because of their age. But the hits are harder and the season longer, so recovery habits must be learned.
Getting treatment for bumps and bruises and spending time in the weight room, pools and other areas of recovery are critical.
"If you look at the three guys who are really playing a ton and some of the other guys, they come from programs where they have done that," Schiano said. "At Alabama, (coach Nick Saban) talks about taking care of your body. At Boise (State), the same thing. You just go down the list; at Nebraska with Bo (Pelini).
"So those kids come here understanding that, and we just amp it up a degree. The best teacher for that is our current players. When you have guys like Ronde (Barber) and Vincent Jackson, guys who really take care of their bodies, now they look up and say, 'That's how you do it.' "
Although the past three games suggest otherwise, LeGarrette Blount still is the backup tailback, Schiano says. Blount had only two carries for 5 yards against Oakland, one for 3 against San Diego and none against Carolina.
In fact, replacing Martin more often than not is third-down back D.J. Ware. But Schiano insists there still is a role for Blount and he will not hesitate to utilize him.
"I think D.J. has a specific role. He's our third-down back, and LeGarrette is our backup running back," Schiano said.
"I wouldn't read too much into the last (three) weeks of him not (playing much). He'll have a role, and he'll do fine. I'm confident he'll do fine."