After missing the first three weeks of training camp and two preseason games, left tackle Donald Penn finally was able to join his teammates on the practice field Monday morning. Penn told the media he was ready to get back to work and looks forward to lining up the next two weeks in preparation for the season opener against Carolina.
Of all the units on the Buccaneers football team, none are as well paid – or under intense pressure – as the offensive line. A key cog, and key counted on contributor to the unit, finally put on the pads for the first time this season Monday morning. Left tackle Donald Penn was glad to finally get a chance to get back to work.
“It felt good to go back out there,” Penn said. “Never really missed practice before in my career so this was a first for me. I have been really itching to get back. Just happy to get back out there with the guys. Get the pads back on and get a feel for everything. It felt real good.”
Penn gave the coaching staff and front office a jolt on the eve of training camp after suffering an injury at home in California.
“Back at home I was running a condition test for my last time before I came out here to run it and I felt some pull in my calf and the next day it swelled up really bad,” Penn said. “I called the coach first thing that morning. I am never hurt. If I [am] I usually play through it. So it [was] a little damper. I got through that real fast.
“Let’s just try to build on trying to get better. You can’t be mad. You can’t be down on yourself. That was one of the first games I missed in my whole career. Those preseason still one of the first games I missed in my whole career—high school and college. So that kind of hurt.”
Head coach Greg Schiano talked about Penn’s injury rehab and having him back on the football field.
I think Donald (Penn) [has] gotten himself into real good shape too which should help him be a better player,” Schiano said. “I didn’t want to rush something. A calf is an injury that can be lingering if you’re not careful. Plus, we wanted him to beat a weight and conditioning level that we think he can be effective. There could be a silver lining in this whole thing.”
Penn talked about the rehab process and his eagerness to return to the football field.
“Coach Schiano and Mark (Dominik) they said when it gets healed we still want to take another week to get it stronger and get the strength back,” Penn said. “I think they did a good job. I don’t know if you guys saw, [but] walking with that sled really got my legs stronger [and] really got the calf stronger. I have been healthy for about a week now. We did that extra week just to get my strength back in my legs and back in my calf. I think JB (Jay Butler) hats off to JB and Todd (Toriscelli) they did a great job. My legs are probably as strong as they have been in a while. That’s great coming off an injury.
Penn said he has no idea how much he will play over the next two preseason games but hopes it is a lot.
“That’s not up to me,” Penn said. “I hope I am out there as long as the No. 1’s are out there, but I am going to do whatever coach tells us. Like I have been doing. I think that’s what a lot of guys are doing. Coach tells us what to do and we are doing it and following his lead.”
While no one likes to see a starting player go down with an injury – particularly one in such a crucial position – but if there is something beneficial to come out of it may be the reps that backup tackle Demar Dotson was able to take going against the Adrian Clayborn in addition to the first team defensive ends of the Dolphins and Titans. Penn thinks his teammate fared well.
“You guys saw him on film,” Penn said. “Besides a couple mistakes which you know happens, I thought he went out there and played great. I kept teasing him like ‘you trying to take my job’? I was teasing him because he was doing so well. He came out here and answered the call and did a great job. I tried to help him with some of the technique stuff. He already had the playbook down, but I tried to help with some of the technique stuff. He came in and did a great job. That’s what you are supposed to do. Doesn’t get any better than that. I don’t think coach could ask for more for somebody to fill in at a prominent position like that and do as well as he did.”
With injury hopefully behind him, Penn isn’t concerned about missed practice time, although he knows he has some things to work on before lining up against the Panthers on September 9.
“When you play as much football as I have, being thrown in there shouldn’t be a problem,” Penn said. “There is [still] a lot of stuff I got to get fixed. I got a lot of catching up to do. I think I am good on the protections and the run plays. I have been studying in the meetings and stuff. [It’s] just about getting my footwork together. I played super hard today. You know which happens everybody’s first day. Feet everywhere today just like what happened everybody’s first day. It felt good to get some of the cobwebs off. It was great to be out here with these guys. They set a standard and now I got to run and catch up.”
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