Jovan Haye lasted just a week in Detroit, playing last week when the Lions were without defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh (suspension) and Nick Fairley (injury). He came back to the team he played with from 2006-2008 on Monday when CB Aqib Talib was placed on the injured reserve list.
“It feels good,” Haye said. “Basically, I’m coming off the street. I was in Detroit for a week. I’m coming off the couch. It feels good. I knew it was a one-week deal [in Detroit].”
The seventh-year player is happy to be back with the Buccaneers. According to a team press release, Haye has played in 72 career games with 46 starts. He's recorded 269 tackles with four being for a loss. Haye has also recorded 6.5 sacks, one forced fumble and four recoveries.
“I’m thankful to be back here with the guys that really gave me my first shot,” Haye said. “I know what I can do down here and I hope I get a shot.”
Head coach Raheem Morris likes that Haye knows coaches within the Buccaneer organization and he looks forward to him having an opportunity to contribute to the team.
“It’s not like he’s going to have to do some big time learning here,” Morris said. “Couple new wrinkles, couple different things called a new way. Other than that, he should be able to hop right back into the system. He lost a bunch of weight to get back into the Tampa 2 ways. He’s looking viously we have a rapport; he has a rapport with a couple of coaches on the staff. I’m looking forward to him being able to contribute as soon as he’s able to go out there and play. Could be this week. Could be easily this weekend.”
The Florida native realizes that this is not the same team that he played with years ago. The Buccaneers are one of the youngest teams in the NFL. The average age of this team’s roster is 25. According to Haye, that goes with the league.
“That’s natural,” Haye said. “I was here in 2008, so a few years have passed. There are a few guys I’ve played with, but Ronde is the oldest guy. That’s the league. At some point you have to get younger.”
As someone who has played in the league for several years, he understands how tough it can be for a team when the wins are just not happening.
“When you go from 10-6 to 4-10 it’s always tough when you don’t win,” Haye said. “It’s about winning and I know that’s the number one goal.”
Haye believes that this young team will be able to bounce back from a season such as the one they have been having.
“It’s a tough year for them,” Haye said. “It’s a good group and they’ll bounce back.”
Even though this Buccaneer defense may be young, Haye believes that within time they will be fine.
“They are good now,” Haye said. “In due time they will be right where they need to be.”
Haye will use the knowledge that he has learned from being in the league for seven years to help out this team. He wants to help out in any way that he can.
“I don’t want to be a father figure, but anything I see out there [I will tell them],” Haye said. “I’m seven years deep. I’ve seen some stuff. I’ve been through some battles and anywhere I can help [I will].”
Haye, who played football at Vanderbilt, knows that it is an honor to be playing in the National Football League. He may have had his struggles to stay in the league, but he is not taking anything for granted.
“You are just blessed for every minute that you get because at the end of the day this is our job. But there are people out there struggling and in less fortunate positions,” Haye said. “You are just blessed for every opportunity. I would say that I’ve played for six teams. Coming back here it would be six teams – but technically, it’s five. You just enjoy the ride. These guys are going to get better. Hopefully they can get a big win this weekend against Carolina.”
“If it wasn’t this, it wouldn’t be my story,” Haye said. “I love living out this story. God has paved the way. I’m just living it out. Whatever opportunity I get, like I said … I told myself I’m going to get 13 years [in the NFL] and I’m going to get 13 years. I’ll scratch to get 13. It didn’t start off in this big glamour position. There are some other bumps. What road do you know that is smooth?”
The defensive tackle has already been able to instill some knowledge on now fellow teammate Michael Bennett. Knowledge such as playing as a team and pulling for each other.
"My best memory? I was telling Bennett the other day, 'We had some fun times here playing defense as a team,' " Haye said. "When we played back then we had some fun. Guys pulled for each other. That's where you have to get to. The great defenses, that's what they do. This team has a chance. The young guys, once they grow and see more stuff and develop, they'll bring back the old Bucs tradition. Trust me."
–Scott Reynolds, Victoria Horchak and Eric Horchy contributed to this report