Just a day after lauding the attendance at Tampa Bay's unofficial mini-camp, second-year DT Gerald McCoy, who is quickly emerging as a team leader, was disappointed to see only two other D-linemen show up for Thursday's practice session.
BRADENTON – Second-year Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, whose body has been transformed into one that is leaner and more muscular this offseason, was flexing his muscles as a leader during Tampa Bay’s unofficial three-day mini-camp at the IMG Performance Institute in Brandenton, Fla. With no coaches present due to the NFL lockout, which has eclipsed 100 days, McCoy took it upon himself to serve as the leader and mentor to the Buccaneers’ defensive line.
Most of the players at the mini-camp were McCoy’s age – 23 – or just slightly older. Rookie defensive end Adrian Clayborn, Tampa Bay’s first-round draft pick this year, may have been the only defensive lineman younger than McCoy, and the two were inseparable during the on-field workouts.
“I love what I’m seeing with the attendance and guys wanting to play,” McCoy said on Tuesday, a day in which the Bucs had over 50 players show up, including most of the defensive line. “I’m having fun.”
On Wednesday, McCoy, the Bucs’ first-round pick a year ago, was asked what unit concerned him the most and he was not afraid to point the finger at himself and his defensive linemates.
“The biggest concern, honestly? I’m concerned about us up front,” McCoy said. “My coaches and my teammates and even Free (quarterback Josh Freeman) called me and a few of the other guys called me and told me to make sure I got the defense out there. Davin [Joseph] texted me and told me to get the D-line out here. Apparently these guys feel that I am the leader of the D-line room so I take it upon myself that if the D-line isn’t running right it’s something I need to get together. My focus is on us up front. If we can get going – if the D-line can get rolling like we’re supposed to it will change the whole team and not just the defense.”
But on Thursday, the final day of the mini-camp, at least a dozen Buccaneers did not show up for the final day of practice, and the defensive line numbers dwindled from nine to just three. Only McCoy, Clayborn and backup defensive lineman Doug Worthington showed up for Thursday’s workout.
After practice, McCoy was clearly disappointed that the defensive line did not have the same type of showing that the offensive line did throughout the mini-camp.
“Everybody had their own offseason agenda and his own offseason schedule, but we almost had the whole team out here the first two days,” McCoy said. “It was great, but if I could have gotten the entire D-line to show up – everybody – on time every day like the O-line did it would have been even better.”
In his quest to become the respected leader of the defensive line in Tampa Bay, McCoy wants his unit to take on the personality and identity of the Buccaneers offensive line.
“The O-line was in the weight room working out together and then they came out on the field together. They eat together and they do everything together. That’s what I want, man. That’s the only way we’re going to be dominant on the field as a defensive line. Everybody wants to be dominant and talk about it, but nobody wants to be about it.
“Don’t get me wrong. I love my D-linemen. I love those guys to death. I would do anything for them, but me being a leader I’m concerned about them. It’s just like me being a parent. I’m concerned about my kids – my pack or my group. They’re my brothers, really. I’m not saying I’m above anybody by no means. We’re family. We’re brothers. I just want my brothers and I to be tight knit. My true family is very tight knit. I want my football family to be the same way.”
McCoy spent the entire offseason training hard in San Diego, dropping 10 pounds from his playing weight of 310 pounds last year and turning fat into muscle. He even tried to organize a defensive line workout for a week in San Diego earlier in the month, offering to fly guys in and pay their way in terms of travel expenses. Only a handful of players showed up, including Clayborn and defensive ends Michael Bennett and Kyle Moore among a few others.
“I didn’t get as much participation as I wanted, but I did get some guys to come, and the guys that did come out got some work in,” McCoy said. “One of the guys that came out was Clayborn and I got to spend some time with him and worked with him individually. I had a whole week to work with him then and I sat him down and talked to him about what he’s thinking and how he plays.
“All I’ve been trying to do is get our guys together and get that pack mentality. That’s why I showed up every day to this mini-camp because you can’t tell other people we need to show up every day and then you don’t show up every day. That’s why I went to every 9:00 a.m. workout and that’s why I came to every on-field thing we did. If I’m going to be a leader, I have to lead by example and not just talk about it.”
McCoy shook his head in disgust when talking about life as an NFL player and how the defensive linemen tend to go their separate ways in the pros, which is not what the Oklahoma product was used to back in college.
“I’m trying to get the feeling here in Tampa that we had at Oklahoma along the D-line,” McCoy said. “When it comes to football, it all starts up front on either side of the ball. I want our defensive line to come together like the offensive line has come together. They are so tight knit. God, I want the same thing. If you have two tight knit sides of the ball and you put those together to go play somebody else – man, you are going to dominate. Look at Pittsburgh and Green Bay. Those teams are tight knit as units. We have all the tools to do that, too.”
There is no doubt that McCoy has transformed his body this offseason by hitting the weights hard and doing an extraordinary amount of conditioning. But perhaps the most interesting and impressive transformation is how quickly he has embraced a leadership role in Tampa Bay. McCoy deserves a good deal of credit for trying to foster a greater sense of unity among the defensive linemen, even if his teammates aren’t necessarily following his lead just yet.
“I was always raised to be a leader and not a follower,” McCoy said. “The Glazers and Mr. Dominik and Coach Morris told me, ‘If we draft you, we bring you in to be the leader and not just put you on the side of the stadium just because.’ They wanted me to be the leader of the D-line and I took it upon myself to learn as a rookie because you have to serve before you can lead. I did my duties as a rookie and now it’s my time to take over. That’s what I’m supposed to do. If I had the role of a captain would I take it on? Of course I would. That’s me. You all know I love to talk. I’m not a shy guy. If I have to be a leader and speak up and take over I’m happy to do that because I love this sport and I love my team and I love winning.”
Copyright © 2011 Pewter Report, PewterReport.com and Pewter Insider. All rights reserved. PewterReport.com, the official site of Pewter Report, is an independent source of news and commentary and is not affiliated with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the NFL.