Mason Foster’s childhood dream is about to become reality. Walking off the field Monday afternoon dripping in liquid sunshine and speaking to the media with an excited inflection in his voice, Foster talked about what it will mean to start an NFL game, albeit a preseason one.
“I am excited to get out there and play,” said Foster about earning the start at middle linebacker for the Buccaneers’ preseason opener Friday night at Kansas City. “It has been a dream of mine since I was a little kid; you know, to come out and play. I am really excited. I cannot even explain it. I cannot wait to get out there and put on that uniform and fly around a little bit.”
Foster’s rise to the top of the depth chart was quick to say the least. Just last week it appeared former USF Bull Tyrone McKenzie had the inside edge but by Friday afternoon Foster was taking some snaps with the first team. Raheem Morris continually heaped praise on McKenzie and Foster, as well as free agent former Syracuse Orangeman Derrell Smith. Keeping the position is something Foster knows is not a given.
“Everything is a competition,” Foster said. “Every step in here at One Buc is a competition. You’ve got to prove yourself every single day. It is a privilege to be on this team and I approach it like that.”
“I really just came out and competed at the highest level possible. I played as hard as I could and I guess I stood out to them. I worked as hard as possible to get my head in the playbook and learn everything, you know, try to be the QB the defense. I’ve got older guys like Quincy [Black] and Geno [Hayes]. Tyrone McKenzie is helping you know, Adam Hayward. Everyone is helping me out so it is paying off.”
The Buccaneers released their depth chart, as required by the NFL, and it will most likely change several times before the team lines up Sept. 11 against the Detroit Lions at Raymond James Stadium.
Other notable defensive depth chart starters released by the team today include Michael Bennett getting the early nod over Da’Quan Bowers. The former Clemson star is still recovering from knee surgery and has been held out of some workouts to be on the safe side according to head coach Raheem Morris. Bennett has been impressive in drills, especially the one-on-ones, during the first week and a half of camp.
The remainder of the defensive starters are, Adrian Clayborn (DE), Gerald McCoy and Roy Miller (DT), Quincy Black (SLB), Geno Hayes (WLB) Aqib Talib and Ronde Barber (CB), and Sean Jones and Cody Grimm (S).
Offensively the starting unit looks much like it did at the start of last season. LeGarrette Blount is listed first-team running back, with Earnest Graham at fullback. The Buccaneers are hoping Erik Lorig will recover from an Achilles injury and reclaim the starting spot as the team’s lead blocker. Josh Freeman rounds out starters in the backfield. The offensive line starters are tackles Jeremy Trueblood and Donald Penn, guards Ted Larsen and Davin Joseph and Jeff Faine anchoring the center position. Manning the outside are Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn, who has made a remarkable recovery from a knee injury suffered last season. Kellen Winslow is first-team at tight end.
On special teams, Michael Koenen is slated to start at punter after being acquired at the start of training camp from the Atlanta Falcons. Conner Barth will be handling placekicking duties. Micheal Spurlock is listed as first-team kick and punt returner and Christian Yount is the team’s long snapper.
In the Buccaneers press release announcing the starters, the team cautioned fans to take the first chart with a grain of salt. But don’t tell that to Foster.
“It’s exciting to be out there with the twos, let alone the ones,” Foster said. “So to be out there with the ones you’re playing against guys I watched as a little kid. I am excited to be out there, man, and I just want to play as hard as I can and do whatever I can to help the team win. Make the checks and just fly around and try to get the ball back.”
- Victoria Horchak contributed to this story