The 2010 season saw many surprise players break out for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Perhaps the most unforeseen Buc to have a banner debut was safety Cody Grimm. The 2010 seventh-round pick Grimm ended up becoming a starter at free safety after Tanard Jackson was suspended for the final 14 games of the season.
Many in the media and Bucs fans thought the loss of Jackson was going to be a massive blow to the Buccaneers. Grimm proved to be more than an adequate replacement. Grimm started nine games and played very well. In Week 12, he broke his ankle against the Baltimore Ravens and ended the season on injured reserve. Grimm has spent the offseason rehabbing and was asked at the Bucs player-organized workouts if he’ll be ready to play when training camp starts.
“Yeah, I wasn’t limiting myself out here at all today,” said Grimm. “I think I should be ready to go. That’ll be the trainers' choice and not mine.”
The 6-foot-1, 203-pound Grimm practiced on Tuesday, but cut his workout short. On Wednesday Grimm worked out the entire time. Grimm did not attend the Thursday session. Grimm enjoyed the camaraderie from being with his teammates.
“That is the main thing. We are getting a lot of good work out here,” said Grimm. “Everyone has been kind of doing this stuff, but it is good to get everyone here and start running through some things, some of the basic defenses, and teaching some of the younger guys and some of the rookies are here as well so I think from that standpoint it will help us a lot.”
It was different for the players to conduct an OTA (organized team activities) like practice without the coaches. Grimm said, “Yeah, it is a little different. I mean we've got to coach ourselves.”
Without helmets and pads the players had to be careful to avoid contact and collisions. Typically in OTAs the players are wearing helmets with shorts and jerseys. Even without the protection of helmets, Grimm didn’t feel the pace of the practice was any slower.
“It was going pretty quick right now,” said Grimm. “Even during the season you never push it too hard. Just with the lockout or without you don’t want to get injuries. Guys were flying around and you could tell the guys were excited to see each other and be out here. I was having to slow myself down a little bit more than I wanted to.”
The Buccaneers player-organized mini-camp was the first time that Grimm had seen his teammates in months. Grimm has been staying with family in Arizona and rehabbing his ankle. While Grimm hasn’t been with Buccaneers, he has been getting some work in with other established NFL stars.
“No, not with any teammates. I was in Arizona rehabbing with a bunch of players,” said Grimm. “I went out to the Larry Fitzgerald-thing one day. I was out there with Donovan McNabb. Different players come through and usually there are about 20 guys. We do [defensive backs] drills.”
As the NFL tries to resolve the lockout of NFL players, the 24-year old Grimm does not believe that the lockout is going to have a big effect on the Buccaneers.
“To tell you the truth, I don’t think it will affect us that much just because with all the time on our hands we’ve all been probably working as hard as ever,” said Grimm. “At least I have as far as rehabbing and working out. If you don’t wake up and work out in the morning you have nothing else to do and feel like crap. Your workouts tend to be longer and hopefully it gets figured out soon so we have as much time to prepare. Right now, OTAs, I mean they are a big deal, but the stuff we go through we already know as first year players that get a lot of [playing time]. It is not huge for us as long as we get in by training camp.”
At the beginning of the 2010 season the Virginia Tech product was projected to be a backup that would be a core special teams player. After replacing Jackson, Grimm recorded 61 tackles (51 solo) with two passes broken up, two interceptions and one returned for a touchdown. Grimm’s game experience should be beneficial for him as he enters training camp with the goal of locking down a starting spot at safety.
With so many young players gaining experience they aren’t the typical group of second-year players that have spent their rookie seasons as backups. In 2010 the Bucs started a large group of rookies in: Grimm, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, linebacker Dekoda Watson, guard Ted Larsen, guard Derek Hardman, running back LeGarrette Blount, wide receiver Mike Williams, wide receiver Arrelious Benn and fullback Erik Lorig. Other rookies like defensive tackle Al Woods and cornerback Myron Lewis played a lot of snaps late in the season.
“I think it will definitely benefit our team as far as when the season starts up,” said Grimm. “A lot of guys got some [playing time], our rookie class got a lot. Everyone pretty much knows all their assignments. Of course it will affect a little bit as far as wrinkles the coaches put in different defenses, but I think it will help us a lot that the majority of us got a lot of playing time last year.”
Grimm sees another reason why the Buccaneers are ready to hit the ground running after the lockout. That reason is the continuity of the coordinators and the starting quarterback. New coaching staffs and quarterbacks have not been able to work together this offseason, so they are far behind where they would normally be in preparation for the season.
“I think we will have an advantage because we don’t have a new quarterback or coordinators,” said Grimm. “The majority of stuff from last year will probably be back in the playbooks and our players know that. A bunch of the young guys got playing time and compared to the teams that are coming in with new quarterbacks and new coordinators.”
While the Bucs received an immediate impact from their rookie class in 2010, they are banking on the same approach in 2011. Defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers are projected to be starters quickly. Linebacker Mason Foster is looked at as a potential starter at linebacker depending on the status of some veteran free agents. Fourth-round pick tight end Luke Stocker is expected to get a lot of playing time as the second tight end. Grimm thinks that the rookies can still meet their expected contributions in 2011.
“As long as they can figure it out soon I don’t think it is too big of a deal,” said Grimm. “The older guys are working with them. Like I was saying earlier, during this time of year in the OTAs we kind of just put in the basic stuff. It is good for the coaches to get their hands on them and show them a couple things. As far as the basic defenses I think we’ll be able to teach them the majority of them.”
Grimm’s father, Russ Grimm, is an offensive assistant with the Arizona Cardinals and was enshrined in the Hall of Fame last August for his stellar career as an offensive lineman with the Washington Redskins. The rules of the lockout have coaches restricted from speaking to players about football related topics. The younger Grimm laughed when asked if the lockout has restricted his conversations with his father this offseason.
“It hasn’t impacted that at all,” said Grimm. “He still doesn’t talk to me very much.”
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