As PewterReport.com reported last week, Tampa Bay left tackle Donald Penn showed up to the Buccaneers FanFest to meet fans and sign autographs. The reports of his weight loss were true as Penn has lost a significant amount of weight and looks to be in good shape at close to 330 pounds.
“I lost about 30 pounds,” Penn said. “I’m in great shape. One thing I want to (say). I didn’t do this for a new contract. I did this for me and for my health. Last year my joints and little aches were real bad. I was carrying all that weight. So I can perform better – at a Pro Bowl caliber. I’ve done it before and I want to keep doing it. I want this team to win.
“I did this for me and for my health. A lot of older O-linemen, they aren't making it past their fifties. If you look at it. I want to be one of those guys (that does). I have a 19-month old son. I want to be able, when it’s all said and done, to go play basketball with him, still run around with him.”
Penn, a restricted free agent for a second straight season, is entering his fifth year in the NFL and is holding out for a new, long-term contract. This offseason, the Bucs offered Penn a one-year tender worth $3.168 million. However, Penn did not sign his tender by June 15 and Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik reduced the offer by $100,000, which NFL teams are allowed to do per the collective bargaining agreement.
Penn has no intentions of signing his tender and will skip the Bucs’ mandatory mini-camp next week.
“I’m not going to mini-camp,” Penn said. “Mark and [head coach] Raheem [Morris] know that, we already talked about that. I’m not going. I’m a good guy. I don’t talk bad about the organization and I’m never going to start. From weeks and during the season, I want to be a Buc for the rest of my life if I can. It's not in my hands.
“You have to look at all these guys getting tendered. It’s their first year getting tendered. Only me and the guy from Houston got tendered two years in a row. I’m in a different boat than them. It happened to me twice in a row, so it’s kind of tough. I’m going to be patient, be calm and control what I can control. Everything that’s going on right now is out of my control. If we had a new [collective bargaining agreement] I would never have been in this position.”
Because he is not under contract, Penn is not subject to fines. Dominik told the media the opposite in an effort to bluff Penn and his agent into signing the tender prior to the June 15 deadline.
That wasn’t Dominik’s only gaffe regarding Penn last week. His private question-and-answer session with fans last week at One Buc Place, which was supposed to be off the record, was recorded by WhatTheBuc.Net and posted to the Internet. During that session, Dominik said that the reason Penn was not signed to an extension was because of his weight gain last year as the left tackle ballooned up to 365 pounds during the season.
Penn was asked about Dominik’s comments, which were picked up by ProFootballTalk.com before the WhatTheBuc.net podcast was taken down.
“I don’t read that stuff,” Penn said. “My agent did call me. I was very disappointed. Me and Mark had a long talk earlier today. He talked to my agent that day. We're good. Mark is one of my biggest fans.”
Dominik also addressed the media about Penn at FanFest and discussed his recorded off-the-record remarks and his apology.
“I apologized to him,” Dominik said. “Donald is an important member of this football team and a guy that I’m extremely fond of. We had a good heart-to-heart conversation. I was glad he came out here for the fans tonight. It shows that Donald is really a member of this football team and really excited about being still part of this football team. I look forward to that happening. Donald and I have always had a great relationship.
“The fact that I made some public statements about my feelings and I didn’t think that was fair to him (about) his weight. You should always live in a world of society that you’re always ‘on.’ That was insensitive and that’s why I apologized to him. I was happy to have a chance to sit and talk with him, look him in the eye and actually shake his hand. I think we’re in good shape. I’m glad he’s here. … I was more worried about my relationship with Donald. That’s what I’m mostly concerned about. I was glad tonight I had an opportunity to talk to him in private and apologize to him.”
Penn discussed why he refused to sign his one-year tender, which cost him $100,000, and why he decided to go to FanFest this year despite missing the entire offseason program.
“That’s a lot of money to give up. It was a tough decision,” Penn said. “Me and my agent talked about it. Thought would be the best decision. This is for the fans. All the little kids and stuff. They don’t know anything about a contract negotiation. They’re here to see their favorite players like Cadillac [Williams] and Josh [Freeman]. A couple of them might like the big guys. A couple of them might like Donald Penn.
“I had lunch with the O-line on Thursday. I got to sit and chat and joke around. I miss that. I kind of don’t miss this heat. I came for the fans. They have nothing to do with this. This has nothing to do with them. So I’m not going to punish them.”
Penn was non-committal about whether or not he would be attending training camp or not without a contract extension.
“I’m not going to get into that. I’ll talk to Mark and Raheem about that when the time comes and my agent will sit down and figure all that out. Hopefully that will happen before the season starts, so we get this on the road. I don’t want to miss training camp. I’m not planning on missing training camp.
“Right now, I’m thinking about taking care of Donald. I’m just worried about me. Hopefully something happens before then. It’s not up to me. … We haven’t really talked about contracts, but I hope so. That’s the plan. I really hope they have me in their future. Everything I hear is that they want to build around Josh Freeman, who is a great quarterback. So where should you start? It isn’t like I haven’t proven myself. Even when I was so-called overweight last year, I still shut down the best of the best all year.”
Penn is considered one of the better left tackles in the NFL and is seeking a contract in the neighborhood of $8 million per year after shutting out some of the league’s top pass rushers over the last two years, including Minnesota’s Jared Allen, New York’s Osi Umenyiora and Dallas’ DeMarcus Ware. Penn has started 44 straight games dating back to 2007.
The Bucs are currently running second-year player Demar Dotson with the first team at left tackle in Penn’s absence. Prior to last year, Dotson had never played offensive line in his life and has only two years worth of experience playing organized football at any level.
That’s a scary proposition for Freeman, the team’s franchise quarterback. Penn is banking on the fact that Freeman does not have an experienced left tackle to protect his blindside to create some leverage during his holdout.
“I talk a lot of [crap], but I think I have a lot of stuff to prove all the time. I go against the best of the best every week, so I have something to prove. I want to be known as one of the best. I want to be in the Bucs Ring of Honor when it’s all said and done. I know I have a lot of work ahead of me to get there. But I want to be mentioned with the best of the best when it comes to left tackles. I feel I am.”
“You know me, I’m a nice guy. We have a small little fire right now. Hopefully no more gasoline gets thrown on it. I’m a good guy, so it’s going to be good.”