Having played his college football at Rutgers for head coach Greg Schiano, Bucs center Jeremy Zuttah said the man and his message have stayed the same. Zuttah is excited about the potential of Tampa Bay's offensive line this season with the addition of free agent guard Carl Nicks.
When Jeremy Zuttah graduated from Rutgers in 2008 and joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a third-round draft pick that year, the last person he thought he would run into again would be his former, and now current head coach, Greg Schiano. Life has a way of playing funny games and the old becomes new again at times, which is the case for now for Zuttah. The Bucs' starting center isn’t complaining. In fact, Zuttah seems to like the familiarity and standards set by Schiano.
“He is demanding,” Zuttah said. “He is going to ask a lot of you, but you see his vision. He tells you why we are doing everything. You agree with everything he is saying because you share that same vision. You want the same goals for the team. Just everything he is asking for he is a very demanding coach, but at the same time, you know why he is asking it from you.”
Zuttah was given the starting center position earlier this season – along with a new, four-year, $16.3 million dollar contract – when the Buccaneers released four-year starter Jeff Faine, clearing $6 million in cap space. Faine was one of Tampa Bay's offensive captains responsible for the line calls, and Zuttah knows he has big shoes to fill, but says things have gone well thus far.
“It has been good,” Zuttah said. “Every day I am just trying to get better at playing center. I come out here with a clear goal. It is nice to know what I have to work on and I am going to get a chance to work on those things. Try to take it one day at a time and get better.
“Me and (quarterback Josh) Freeman work together (on the line calls). Putting everybody on the same page.”
Zuttah has started 13 games in his career at center, filling in for the oft-injured Faine over the last few seasons and says he feels comfortable.
“Your first goal every play is the ball,” Zuttah said. “You got to take care of the ball every play. That is the most important thing. Obviously, guard is not your responsibility to give the ball to the quarterback. So just that you have to do that first before you do everything else.”
Zuttah talked to the media after last week’s mandatory mini-camp and said despite the gap in years playing for his coach, things haven’t really changed.
“No (nothing has changed),” Zuttah said. “Coach is the same coach. He is not going to change. He has this thing where he doesn’t – he always tells us don’t let the situation dictate your behavior. Just because the situation is different for him, he is not going to change his approach to the game.
“Like I said before coach is very demanding. He lays it out for you. He lets you know how he wants things to be. He wants it that way. So he asks a lot, but you always know where you stand. You always know what you have to do.”
Zuttah thinks this offensive line unit could become one of the strengths of the 2012 Buccaneers.
“I am excited,” Zuttah said. “Obviously, playing between two Pro Bowlers in Davin (Joseph) and Carl (Nicks) and you know we got two outstanding tackles in (Jeremy) Trueblood and (Donald) Penn. We are going to be as good as we want to be. You've just got to come out here with the same mentality to get better every day.”
Schiano agreed the potential is there for the offensive line to be one of the Bucs most dependable units, but stressed it is premature to draw that conclusion.
“I think right now it has a chance to be, but it's early,” Schiano said. “We haven’t hit anybody, so I can’t tell you that. It would be premature of me. I do see how strong Carl Nicks is. I see him on video and it’s like, 'Wow.' And Davin Joseph, too. So I do think we have some pieces that can really be really good, but until we get to hit each other and see how those pieces come together, it would be premature for me to say anymore.”
Zuttah spent for years in New Jersey with Schiano and now an offseason in Tampa, and was jokingly asked last week if he thinks his head coach will run out of fiery speeches anytime soon.
“Coach – obviously, he is a very smart man – he is always taking notes,” Zuttah said smiling. “He is always trying to learn new things. I am sure he has a whole bunch of stuff he is still reading on.”
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