Entering his third season in the NFL, Buccaneers wide receiver Sammie Stroughter knows he has several young receivers, such as Preston Parker, a sensation in last year's training camp, and 2011 undrafted rookie free agent Raymond Webber, nipping at his heels. Confident in his ability, Stroughter isn’t looking at it as fight for a roster spot, but more of an opportunity to mentor the rookies they way he was tutored as entered the league in 2009.
“It really put the young guys at a disadvantage not having the OTAs,” Stroughter said. There is so much to be known before the preseason games. It is a tough situation, but we just have to roll with the punches and continue and try and help tem as much as possible.
“You take them under your wing as much as possible. There is so much getting thrown [at them] right now we are just trying to simplify and trying to keep them from getting all discombobulated and at least try and play fast.”
While camp has been competitive the receivers group is a tight-knit bunch, according to Stroughter, who was mentored by the likes of Antonio Bryant and Michael Clayton during his rookie season.
“All of them are really, really good right now,” Stroughter said. “And they all have the body mold of a great receiver. Collectively, any one of our receivers can make a play. That is one thing I like about the receiver room is when one person makes a play, we all want to make a play. There isn’t any jealousy, and they (the young receivers) feed off it, too. That is always a great atmosphere to work in.”
Although considered a veteran by most, Stroughter doesn’t buy into that notion as he feels it could lead into complacency.
“No, I’m still that young player [laughs],” Stroughter said. “I still make mistakes and things like that. That’s why I look at players like Micheal Spurlock and Maurice Stovall when he was here. To see them hold that standard really high and follow after that, I have to continue to grow on and off the field and lead.”
The former Oregon State player burst onto the scene with the Buccaneers in 2009 after being taken in the seventh round. Stroughter finished his OSU career third all-time in receptions and receiving yards [164 receptions, 2,653 yards], but fell to the 233rd pick in the 2009 draft due to a slow 40-yard dash time (4.6). Not given much of a chance to make the team at the beginning of training camp, Stroughter worked his way on to the roster with dependable hands and a quick grasp of the offense. In a 38-28 victory against the Green Bay Packers, the first start of Josh Freeman’s career and Raheem Morris' first victory, the former Beaver recorded his first NFL career touchdown reception in dramatic fashion.
Trailing the Packers late in the fourth quarter, Freeman hit Stroughter with a touchdown pass on fourth down to lead the Bucs' come-from-behind victory. He and Freeman have developed a good chemistry over the two seasons they have played together, and Stroughter has been impressed with the development of his quarterback.
“Josh has no fear,” Stroughter said. “And if you get there he is going to throw it to you. And that’s one thing you love as a receiver. If we stay true [to the route] he will stay true to you.”
The former Granite Bay California High School star also loves what he sees from fellow receiverArrelious Benn, who is recovering from surgery after a season-ending knee injury last year.
“It’s amazing, amazing,” Stroughter said. “If you can see him running a route you say, 'Which one (leg) did you hurt?' It is really like that. We have a good training staff and they are making sure he doesn’t rush anything, but [Benn] is a competitor, and he wants to be out there. I think he is ready right now.”
Monday afternoon marked the teams's first day in pads and Stroughter was eager to strap them on and take a hit ot two.
“We get to actually play football now,” Stroughter said. “What Coach said is we are running around in dresses right now. When we get the pads on then we get to big boy stuff. You’ll never hear us complain about [practicing without pads]. But it’s not realistic football though.
"It felt good to get out there and feel like real football again. It was a little tough at first as you have to get your legs back under you, but overall it was nice."
Despite the lockout and loss of mini-camps and OTAs Stroughter doesn’t believe it will put the team at a disadvantage overall.
“No, we aren’t ever going to make excuses,” Stroughter said. “That’s one thing Coach Raheem will tell you from Day One. We aren’t going to make excuses from the lockout. We have to continue to grow. We have a good core from last year and we have to continue to grow from there. And add the intricate parts with the young guys.”
With only four days of training camp behind them, Stroughter has been impressed with the focus of his teammates and the work ethic put in thus forth.
“We had a few mental errors toward the end [in Sunday’s afternoon session],” Stroughter said. “[Our focus is] just making sure we are staying sharp and finishing strong. That was our big turning point last year – finishing strong. And now we started off really fast. The fans, in their eyes, we finished off strong, but we had a couple errors for us.”
– Scott Reynolds contributed to this report