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March 25, 2012 @ 10:33 am
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Foster Excited To Remain At Middle Linebacker For Tampa Bay

Written by Scott
Reynolds
Scott Reynolds

Scott
Reynolds

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With the Buccaneers not signing a free agent middle linebacker, Mason Foster is excited about playing the position again for the second straight season. Foster told PewterReport.com that he played too hesitantly last year and is confident that the experience he gained will allow him to play better in 2012.
The signing of former Atlanta Falcon Curtis Lofton to a five-year deal by New Orleans on Saturday means that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers seem committed to keeping Mason Foster at middle linebacker for a second year.

The reason? Aside from Seattle’s David Hawthorne, who hasn’t conjured up much interest in free agency, there aren’t any more experienced middle linebackers available on the market that seem to interest Tampa Bay.

Lofton landed in New Orleans, while the Falcons replaced him with former Seahawk Lofa Tatupu, who was signed off the street. Philadelphia traded for Texans middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans. Denver re-signed its middle linebacker, Joe Mays. Detroit re-signed Stephen Tulloch, and Washington is expected to re-sign London Fletcher.

So that leaves Foster, who started at middle linebacker during his rookie season, as the Bucs’ current signal caller on defense, which was something general manager Mark Dominik hinted at a few weeks ago after the team signed wide receiver Vincent Jackson, guard Carl Nicks and cornerback Eric Wright.

“I know we’re talking to the team about Mason Foster being the Mike linebacker of this team,” Dominik said. “And I think the coaching staff that has been in here evaluating that tape feels like he has a great opportunity to keep the green dot and stay as the middle linebacker.”

Dominik’s encouraging words and the team’s lack of action at the middle linebacker position in free agency has thrilled Foster this offseason.

“It’s definitely exciting,” Foster said. “We have a new coaching staff and for me to have guys that already believe in me it’s great. I’m looking forward to getting in the office when we are able to start watching film and talking X’s and O’s. We really didn’t have an offseason last year and that proved to me last year just how far you can get during the season with only a few months of working with the coaches. I tried to learn everything I could and get better in every single way. I just wanted to help the team win any way I could. I just want to win.”

Despite leading the team with 126 tackles during his first season in the NFL, while contributing four tackles for loss, two sacks, two passes defensed, one interception, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery, Foster has his share of critics. Tampa Bay’s run defense was the worst in the league with Foster in the middle last year, and for every tackle and splash play he made there seemed to be a tackle that he missed or a big play in the passing game that he gave up.

“It was definitely challenging,” Foster said. “I tried to do everything I could by going down to Bradenton before the season started for the [unofficial] mini-camp, but even doing that it was tough to get a real good grasp on everything. I was able to show the physical part of my play by hitting people and making plays. It was tough as the season went on and more and more stuff was thrown in. I’m not making any excuses, but I definitely feel like there was a lot on my plate. With all that was going on I just tried to stay positive and get better each week. At the end of the day, I’ve been working to get better this offseason and keep everything going.”

Foster’s critics must realize that he only played outside linebacker in college, and the first time he ever looked at the Buccaneers’ playbook was the first day of training camp due to the NFL lockout last spring and summer that robbed every club of its offseason program, mini-camps and OTAs (organized team activities). That was an unenviable position for any rookie to be in. Not only would Foster have to learn how to play a new position and learn how to play on a different level of football, he would also have to learn all of the other positions on defense and their responsibilities so that he could make the audible calls for the Buccaneers.

As a result of having all of that on his plate during his rookie season, Foster admits to being too hesitant, which affected his play.

“When I look back at the film I see me playing hesitant at times and not really trusting my first instinct, which is something I typically don’t do,” Foster said. “Anybody that watched me play in college knows that my instincts and my ability to play sideline-to-sideline are good. But there were times when I would second-guess myself and end up a step too slow. Much of it goes back to trusting yourself and I feel like with a year under my belt and learning from the coaches that I can only get better.”

That’s what new Buccaneers defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan believes. Sheridan was very high on Foster coming out of the University of Washington last year when he was the linebackers coach of the Miami Dolphins and believes that the year's worth of experience he gained in 2011 will benefit Foster in his second year at the position.

“I met him last year coming in before the draft,” Foster said. “He was a great guy back then and then I had a chance to talk to him the other day at [One Buccaneer Place]. He’s just a good guy. He asked me how I was doing and how my family was doing. I’m excited. I can’t wait to get into talking X’s and O’s with him and getting everything going.

“I remember sitting down with him in Miami because my first visit was to Miami. I was sitting in his office talking football for a long while and we also talked about life. I’m really excited that he got hired here and is going to be a part of this staff. He can help me get better and take my game to the next level.”

While Foster’s play was not up to his standards last year, he did make some plays against the run and the pass, and the fact that he led the team in tackles despite missing the second halves of three contests due to a bad ankle sprain early in the season is something he can build on as he heads into the middle linebacker position once again with more experience.

“No matter what was going on I always played hard regardless,” Foster said. “No matter if your ankle is a little sore, if you aren’t feeling well or if you are dealing with stuff from home, football is football. You can come and play and forget about everything else. Something I prided myself on was doing whatever I could to help my team win, whether it was interceptions, fumbles, sacks, tipped passes or pressures. That’s what I tried to do. Stats don’t mean a thing. I’m just trying to help us win.

“At the same time, I felt like I was learning more at the end of the season, and leading the team in tackles is a good accomplishment. Just playing in the league is a big accomplishment, but actually coming in and making plays for the team and leading the team in tackles is something that’s positive. Yet I can’t look at that as a good goal or that’s what I wanted. I think it’s a great way to start and look back and say I was banged up and things didn’t go the way I wanted to go, but I was able to have some level of success. I can keep working and do a lot better than that, but it’s a good way to start my career.”

While the Bucs don’t appear likely to sign a veteran middle linebacker this year, you can bet that Tampa Bay will draft one in April to compete with Foster in case he doesn’t show enough improvement in his second season at the position. Boston College’s Luke Kuechly is a player Tampa Bay has to be considering in the first round if the team moves down in a trade, and Alabama’s Dont’a Hightower will be available in the second round and Mychal Kendricks will likely be a third-round pick.

If Foster somehow loses out on the starting Mike job this season, he is open to playing one of the outside linebacker positions. Quincy Black is the current starting strongside (Sam) linebacker, but is overpaid and under-productive. Geno Hayes was the starting (Will) weakside linebacker and is an unrestricted free agent that was not given a contract offer and is not expected to return to Tampa Bay in 2012.

“I wish Geno the best,” Foster said. “He was a great teammate. My sophomore year I played Will and then my junior year I moved to Sam, guarding the tight end and playing down the line of scrimmage in the Under front. My senior year I moved back to Will and became an All-American. You just get a feel for the defense as a whole. Even coming into the Bucs this year coming straight into camp they had me learn all three positions. Once you learn Mike you pretty much learn the other two linebacker roles because you have to know what they are doing. Whatever happens in free agency or the draft happens.

“I’m ready to help the team win, whether it’s at Mike or Will or Sam or running down on kickoffs. Winning is the best feeling in the world. Winning in Tampa would be even better. I just can’t wait to get started and help this team win.”

Last modified on Sunday, 25 March 2012 11:15
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COMMENTS

  • avatar


    No compensatory picks this draft bucster1942.
  • avatar

    do we get a comp pick this year? Get london please
  • avatar


    LUKE KUECHLY at number 5 or trade down in the top ten and still get him. He is going to be the next great MLB in the NFL. Reminds me of Matthews with his intensity. Move Foster to OLB. Don't screw this one up Dominik. They can always trade down from 5 and pick ups some extra picks and hopefully still get Kuechly. Swap number ones, pick up a 2 and maybe replace the missing 4. Pick up WR Sanu or double up at LB with either Brown, Upshaw, Hightower or David if available. Two high quality LB's would be a dream come true. LB and CB are definitely the Bucs biggest needs. RB Pead RB James, or another CB or OL at 3 if available.. We definitely need a speed RB and it goes unsaid we need CB's. OL is in need of back ups. Pick up some more LB's for depth later. Also check the cut wires for positions of need. There will be some quality players let go prior to final rosters. Just my opinion. I like Richardson but not enough to use number 5 to pick him. Recent history verifies that RB's taken int the top ten in recent years have not done very well. Claiborne or Blackmon possibly if available at 5. But they will most likely be gone at 5. I know, I know we picked up V. Jackson but you can never have too many receivers. CB's like Claiborne are extremely rare. Hence I think both will be gone when the Bucs pick at 5.What a nightmare to figure out but that's OK. A good situation to be in right now. I feel like a kid in a candy store.
  • avatar


    I'm sure not going to give up on Mason Foster playing MLB just yet. Last year our defensive coaching staff led by Raheem Morris and his ill-designed scheme(?), had no idea themselves; so it's no wonder the young rookie looked lost. In my view, Raheem took on more than he should have in his scrapping of the Tampa-2 for whatever that system was. As much as some of you are ready to call Gerald McCoy a "bust"; the entire defense regressed after his injury. Couple that with Brian Price's physical woes and it should be easy to understand why Foster struggled. The defense wasn't the worst in franchise history because of Mason Foster. It was because of that Tampa "No Clue" defense. It reminded me of that old Beetles song, "Helter Skelter".
  • avatar


    scubog, makes sense to me. Yeah , you know I am not happy with Gerald McCoy performance so far. He does have this year to pull it all together. I hope he does as we really can't afford for him to be an under achiever (bust). I am concerned with his focus to play lean especially in the upper torso as a DT. I was hoping he would gain back that 30 lbs that he lost last year and add muscle from waist up. I just don't see his performance improving at that weight class. He can still be quick at 295 and then also strong. He does get pushed around a lot and he can't rely on his quickness to get around a center/guard especially if is it is a run or a short pass. How do you feel about McCoy?
  • avatar


    Horse: My view on #93 at this point is that we really don't know yet. He has shown the ability to be a disruptor at the line of scrimmage which is what his position is designed to do. It's not necessarily to get a lot of sacks. Like you, I think he has to show a lot more this year and it starts with him being healthy.
  • avatar


    Scubog, here's hoping he does because we need him. Gerald McCoy is a class guy and I respect the man and I am pulling for him to turn it up a notch. I know that Sapp didn't really start excelling until year three too, but he had a lot of promise in year two. Ofcourse he didn't have the injuries that McCoy has had.
  • avatar

    Mason Foster is not a MLB again he is not a MLB he excelled playing the weak lb in college now we think he is a MLB based on our desperation at the position. The guy was lost in transition on almost every play and is not stout enough to play the position, does anyone remember him making any plays in the back field last yr? not me. I guess it will take the new regime a yr of seeing it first hand to figure what I already know. (sigh)
  • avatar


    Here is my two cents again, as I have stated in the past with Tampa bay signing a couple big top free agin whi is effected to make a big impact on how the bucs play in 2012. Let's Tampa do this First of all since we got thru RA a WR, OG and a CB. With Barberr coming back. I think we are foine at CB. Now this what I would do. DON'T TRADE DOWN STAY PUT UNLESS AN UNBELIEVEABLE DEAL COME DOWN FOR TAMPA FIRAST PICK I WOULD SELECT THAT TOP LB LUKE KUENCHLY WITH THE NO$5 PICK AT THE #4 PICK IN THE 2ND RD i WOULD TRADE DOWN FOR TWO PICKS MAYBE A 2ND AND A 4TH PICK IF NOT.i WOULD GET THAT rb IN #4 PICK IN SECON ROUND, THEN AT THE NO#3RD PICK i WOULD SELECT THE BEST PLAYER AVAILABLE AT NO.5 PICK IN 3RD RD. THEN TAMPA CAN SIT BACK A SEE WHAT WILL BE AVAILABLE IN rD-5,6,&7. mASYBE tAMPA CAN GET AT LEAST ANOTHER SELECTION OR TWO IN rD-7 go bucs>
  • avatar


    Dontario Poe DT memphis,Donta Hightower MLB alabama, Vontaze Burflict OLB arizona st, would go along way in bringing a physicall presence to our defense teaming them with mason foster and adrian clayborne HIT STICK....
  • avatar


    johnpaul82, that's not going to happen because we have the great Gerald McCoy who is going to try not to tear anymore muscles and play several games for us this year.
  • avatar

    I've seen every game of Burfict as I take my son toi watch the ASU Games and he is a mental case always has personal foul penalties and has been benched several times I'll pass on this guy. he reminds me of Lavaar Arrington loads of wasted talent
  • avatar

    Except for the fact that Burfict has dropped so far down due to his combine performance that a lot of teams have publicly said they're not even looking at him anymore. Definitely not a smoke screen either.
  • avatar

    So...foster's critics should just be quiet until he get's run over by jaquizz rodgers again right...no thanks..no excitement can be had by seeing ur defensive playcaller trucked by a guy that I outweighed coming out of junior high...sorry, but actually i'm not...
  • avatar


    ehinote/horse ~ well said.I dont expect bucs to go from worst to first this season~just that we actually get better overall. It will be nice to finally draft BPAs instead of forcing round pegs in square holes just cuz we are in despiration at certain positions..
  • avatar

    This really puts us in a bind with our draft. Instead of drafting best player available we will now be looking to fill at least 3 positions early in the draft. I see a lot of people saying we should sign a FA RB, but to me that's not the way to go. Running back is a young man's position. We could draft a RB somewhere in the first 3 rounds and he could start for us immediately with a short learning curve. Now, with us not signing a starting MLB we will be looking for one early as well as RB and corner. It's not easy to stick a rookie LB in and have him be successful. Bucs: your biggest need this offseason was and still is finding some linebacker help. Foster is our best and he isn't very good yet. Do what you have to do to get this position right.
  • avatar


    ehinote, completely agree with you. For the reasons mentioned, I believe our best interest is to trade down in rounds 1 & 2 and pick up enough draft picks to solidy this team, and then next year we would finally be able to draft by BPA.
  • avatar


    I think a big key in helping Foster is keeping McCoy and Price healthy for a whole year. When those 2 are healthy and in the game, our whole defense plays better, especially the middle linebacker. I don't think it was a mistake that Foster played his best football in the beginning of the season when McCoy and Price were on the field together.
  • avatar

    I'm willing to give Foster the benefit of the doubt in this situation. He didn't get a fair shot last year. No offseason and being asked to run a defense and play a position he didn't have much experience with. The LB coaching was very suspect last year as was the overall coaching and team attitude in general. Not a good environment for a rookie. I beleive Foster was forced to think too much and couldn't just let loose and play football. If the new coaching staff believes in him than he deserves to prove himself. How many players make a big impact in their rookie year? Not many, especially with the circumstances.
  • avatar

    Can we please sign some Defensive Players; upgrade the worst defense in the league!! Signing one CB is not going to cut it!!
  • avatar

    sign london fletcher !!!
  • avatar

    Not problem not getting Lofton but how did N.O. get him??? Thought their cap space was pretty bad????
  • avatar


    I’m glad we didn’t get Lofton, his first interest was not the Bucs and we would have signed an uninspired player who only wanted to get paid. It’s not that I don’t think that Foster could play the middle, I just think instinctively, he’s better suited for the outside. He is going to be good wherever we play him, but there is a steep learning curve to play the middle. I wouldn’t be disappointed if we got rid of this youngry idea and signed one of the best MLBs in the NFL last year, London Fletcher, to a 2yr 12mil contract with 1yr guaranteed as a player/coach. Then draft his heir-apparent MLB (Kuechly or Hightower) in the 1st round or (Bobby Wagner or LaVonte David) in the 2nd round, depending on whether we trade down or not. Then tie the heir-apparent to Fletcher’s hip for the next year or 2 until he knows the position hands down. We could then move Foster to the outside. With Fletcher we would be getting a 3-down (not 2-down like Lofton) proven pro bowl MLB who can still play at a high level and a 2yr training program for his successor. With Barber coming back, we would have 2 leaders in the locker room that could mentor the younger players.
  • avatar

    The reality is, besides a few rookies our defense is going to be exactly the same as last year. Worst in the league. Hopefully with Jackson and a much improved Oline, Freeman will just outscore other teams...
  • avatar


    Has Ernie Sims sighned yet might bring some cheap experience and is better than what we have
  • avatar

    No problem trying Foster again ,but we better have a decent backup plan. Like drafting LB Wagner from Utah St. in the third or fourth rnd. He was all over the field in Senior bowl.
  • avatar

    Foster played descent for his first year at mike. First, he should never have been thrown into the fire liek that as a rookie. I stated last year that once Ruud was gone, there was going to be a problem with the play calling when it came down to some of the veteran QB's that Foster would be facing. I was right, the defense was disgusting last year. I hope they can build upon, well, nothing much that got accomplished last season. Look to the draft for David or Kendricks that may be able to help the D out, but again,throwing rookies into the fire, not bad if it's one or two, but a whole LB corpes? I bet the Run D doesn't get any better this season. Kendricks please!! David is too small. He's like Geno Hayes part 2 but makes better plays. I know I'm goingt o get the Derrick Brooks reference from someone, but there was only one Brooks!
  • avatar


    London Fletcher.....NOW !
  • avatar


    I like Foster but I didn't want him playing MLB when we drafted him. After game 3 last year there wasn't much I saw on the field that makes me any more confident he will be a great MLB. I think he's smart enough but despite being listed at 240 lb he doesn't appear to be strong enough to me. I don't think he worked out as hard as he should've last offseason. If he makes that adjustment this season then I'll in turn adjust my opinion of him at MLB. Until he shows otherwise I'd still rather see him starting at SLB.
  • avatar


    For right now this is fine; Foster never gave up and I am sure that the film showed that to the coaches.
  • avatar

    i'm good with foster at mlb.. he had to basicly go it alone last year, with no spring practices, etc.. and a sub-par coaching staff. he did remarkably well under those circumstances....maybe quincy black will elevate his game as well. i do have faith in this coaching staff. they seem to be well qualified, experienced, and know where they're going next.
  • avatar

    Foster can play the MIKE. He's fast, strong, physical, and has great instincts and leadership ability. He had POOR coaching, terrible LB play on the outside, and didn't get enough time to learn the playbook. His DT play up front didn't help either. We need to look to the draft and Lavonte David should be there in round 2 to play the WILL. At 6'1 233 lbs, David has great instincts, and most of all, is physical, fast, and flys too the football and knows how to tackle. Even the big backs of the Big 10, he wraps around the legs and drives through. Vastly underrated.
  • avatar


    Though I think we need an experienced MLB, another year under Foster's belt will be experience. Just hope we get competition in here. PR, I will ask this again, if we don't get an early draft on LB, who knows how the draft will pan out, I am curious about Audie Cole from NC State, could be a solid late round pick up, thoughts?
  • avatar


    Though the kid can use some more experience,he wasnt too bad.Our ever injured defensive line wasnt doing the rest of our D any favors..And lets not get into our lack of a real coach at the time..Give Foster another shot (unless we land a WAY better option),if not~there is always next years FA/Draft...
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