As reported first by PewterReport.com earlier this week, the Buccaneers did in fact have serious interest in signing speedy running back Jeff Demps. Sources tell PewterReport.com that Demps most likely will sign with either Tampa Bay or New England.
The one thing that is almost certain is former Gator and Olympic medalist will be at One Buccaneer Place next week. The question is, will he be wearing the uniform of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the New England Patriots?
The Patriots will be in Tampa next week to practice with Tampa Bay prior to Friday's preseason contest and sources tell PewterReport.com that one of those two teams are most likely the landing spot for the speedy running back from Winter Park.
Demps spent Thursday working out for the Patriots, but contrary to reports, did not sign a contract. Demps was on a plane traveling back to Florida on Friday and will decide between the Buccaneers and Patriots perhaps as early as this evening sources tell PewterReport.com.
Demps, who has run the 100-meter in a time as fast as 10.01, did not sign with an NFL team after going undrafted in April because he wanted to focus on training for the 2012 Olympics at the time. He is now a free agent and has several teams interested, including the Buccaneers, who have been touching base with Demps as far back as the early summer prior to the Olympics.
In fact, the Bucs came close to signing Demps this summer when he failed to qualify for the Olympics, finishing seventh in Oregon. He was added to the 2012 U.S. Olympic roster as a member of the 4x100 meter relay teams, as a replacement for Mike Rodgers who had suffered a stress fracture.
Instead of signing with the Bucs in July, Demps wanted to focus on racing in the Olympics and then concentrate on football in August.
Demps raced the first leg of the of the second qualifying heat, helping the team to a time of 37.38, breaking a 20-year American record. Demps didn’t run in the final, but his teammates ended up finishing second, earning a silver medal. As part of the team, Demps received a medal.
The Bucs see the value Demps brings from a football standpoint, as well as a public relations standpoint in appealing to the rabid Gators fan base in the Tampa Bay area. Tampa Bay used to have several Gators players on the team during the team’s rise in the late 1990s under head coach Tony Dungy, but there is not one former Florida player on the current training camp roster except for safety Ahmad Black, who was Tampa Bay's fifth-round draft pick in 2011.
The Buccaneers offense added a playmaking wide receiver in Vincent Jackson this offseason, but with speed just under 4.5 in the 40-yard dash, he is actually more of a possession-type receiver. Fellow newcomer Tiquan Underwood, who has 4.3 speed, is really the only true speed receiver the offense has. Demps’ speed could be a welcome addition in both the passing game and the running game in Tampa Bay.
Several team around the league expressed interest in the Winter Park native, including the Buccaneers, Patriots, Colts and Jets.
While it hasn’t been announced specifically how Tampa Bay would utilize the former Gator speedster, most feel he would initially compete for kickoff return duties and possibly be worked into the running back rotation. Demps most likely would be eased into playing time as he has spent the past several months training for the Olympics as opposed to football.
Demps’ career at Florida was impressive as the speedster finished his time in Gainesville as the school’s eighth-leading rusher with 2,470 yards on 367 carries, a 6.7 average, and 23 touchdowns on the ground.
As a receiver out of the backfield, Demps nabbed 57 passes in his career for 481 yards, an 8.4 average.
The Winter Garden, Fla. native’s speed put him position to be an effective kickoff returner for the Gators. Demps averaged 28.8 yards on 61 returns including a career long 99-yard touchdown return his senior season.
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