Barrett Ruud doesn't regret skipping OTAs last year. Even though he doesn't have a new deal, Ruud is taking part in the Bucs' offseason workouts this year. Ruud talked about his contract status and Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh on Wednesday. In other news, free agent DE Alex Brown signed with the Saints today.
Tampa Bay's offseason training program is well underway, and Buccaneers middle linebacker Barrett Ruud has been one of the players in attendance.
The same couldn't be said when organized team activities rolled around last year. That's because Ruud elected to skip those voluntary workouts in hopes of landing a long-term, lucrative contract. That stance didn't pay off for Ruud, who played under the final year of his rookie contract in 2009.
"I definitely have no regrets about last offseason because I was trying to get something done. If I could go back I would do it again," said Ruud. "Last year didn't work out well because I obviously didn't get what I wanted to accomplished, so I figured why not do all the OTAs? I think OTAs are really helpful. Practicing football is pretty much better than most things you could be doing otherwise. I've always been a workout guy. I don't like to get out of shape for very long. I take about 3-4 weeks off and then I get in shape again. I've been a workout guy, but you can't substitute football practices for working out.
"I don't think it impacted my play. We had a new defense in and it probably would have been a little easier on me to know more of that defense going into training camp, but by the time camp got around I had a good grasp of it. I don't think it had a negative impact on my play, but I do think OTAs are helpful."
Playing in two different defenses under Jim Bates and head coach Raheem Morris wasn't easy for Tampa Bay's defense, which ranked 27th in the NFL last year, including 32nd vs. the run. But Ruud still managed to have success, notching a career-high 205 tackles.
Looking back on it, Ruud believes players began to question Bates' defense early because they never had the initial success needed to build confidence.
"I've been in the situation before where you're doing something that works extremely well and you've completely bought into it, and then when you do something else and it doesn't work well right away it's human nature to start questioning it," said Ruud. "I went through in college a little bit. I don't think there is anybody that's not buying into what we're doing right now. After a game or two with Rah coordinating it felt very comfortable. Having a full year to get that in is going to be really good for us."
While he is working on improving his play as a blitzer and defender in match coverage, Ruud is excited about the prospects of playing in Morris' defense, which is a combination of Bates' scheme and the Tampa 2 style of defense he essentially grew up in after entering the NFL as a second-round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.
"It's really nice because we've really combined the two defenses," said Ruud. "We're having something that's pretty unique now and something that will work well. The tough part is we played well as a defense towards the end of the year, but we still made a lot of mental mistakes because we were doing it on the fly. Having a whole year to implement everything is really going to help us."
Ruud, 26, also knows he can really help himself with a big year in 2010. He was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this year, but no extension of the Collective Bargaining Agreement made Ruud and plenty of other players around the NFL become a restricted free agent. Ruud has yet to sign his one-year tender from the team, but he acknowledged Wednesday that the 2010 season could be his last in Tampa Bay.
"I approach this as a one-year, prove-it deal," said Ruud. "That's kind of what it is. You can say what you want, but the facts are I got a one-year tender, so that's how I'm approaching it.
"They really haven't given me an explanation, but the explanation is pretty clear throughout the league. It's a very unlucky time to be a free agent. A free agent is not a free agent right now. You're sort of stuck. Had I come out a year earlier into the draft I probably would have been fine. There's no animosity right now. I know it's a business. I'd like to get something done, but right now I'm approaching it like I have a one-year, prove-it deal."
Of course, Ruud could use some help along the way. Bucs defensive tackles Ryan Sims and Chris Hovan struggled mightily last year. Tampa Bay is in the market for a defensive tackle in the 2010 NFL Draft, and it just so happens that two of the better players in this year's draft are Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy and Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh.
Ruud, who is a self-confessed college football junkie, watched McCoy and Suh play quite a bit as members of the Big 12 Conference and came away quite impressed with both players. But Ruud made it no secret that if he had a choice he'd prefer to play behind Suh, who received Heisman Trophy consideration while playing at his alma mater.
"You know who my vote is for, but what I like about Suh the most is three years ago he was an okay player. He wasn't a super freak or anything like that, but he's got an attitude that he wants to get better," said Ruud. "His attitude is like mine, but I made myself into a late-first-round or high second-round pick, and he's made himself probably into the best player in college football because he's got more natural talent. I've watched him in spring practices where he's the only guy on defense that reads a screen across the field. He's not just a guy that puts his hand in the dirt and flies up field. He reads formations and makes plays from the defensive tackle spot. That's pretty rare - guys don't make plays like he did, let alone being double-teamed for most of the game. He's a big-time playmaker at defensive tackle, and I think he's pretty special. He's a good guy, too. I enjoy being around him.
"McCoy is more of the prototypical three technique. He's the type of player Monte Kiffin always liked to have at the three technique in his defense. He gets off the ball and is a lot like Tommie Harris. You obviously wouldn't be disappointed with either one of those guys. They're both going to be really good pros."
In other Bucs-related news, Chicago Bears free agent defensive end Alex Brown, who was scheduled to visit Tampa Bay on Thursday, signed a two-year contract with the New Orleans Saints today, according to NFL.com.
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