Three years ago, Jordan Shipley helped the Texas Longhorns win a Big 12 Championship and earn a spot in the BCS National Championship game. The All-American wide receiver was selected in the third round of the 2010 draft by the Cincinnati Bengals and finished his rookie career 52 receptions for 600 yards including 3 touchdowns.
Last year, he tore two ligaments in his knee, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL), in Week 2 against the Broncos, forcing him to miss the remainder of the 2011 season. Four days ago, Cincinnati waived Shipley.
Today, he was at One Buc Place trying to earn a spot on the roster, with only six days remaining until the first cuts are to take place.
The last few days have been a whirlwind for the Temple, Texas native. Yesterday he received a call he was signed by the Bucs and less than 24 hours later, he was practicing with the team in Tampa. Shipley is reunited with former Longhorn teammates DT Frank Okam, DT Roy Miller, and FB Cody Johnson. After practice Tuesday, Shipley spoke with the media about the past day.
“I’m excited.” Shipley said. “I got a phone call yesterday and I’m practicing this morning, so it’s a pretty quick turnaround and I’m excited to be down here playing football."
Shipley shared that landing with the Buccaneers was definitely a surprise, as he hadn’t even come to Tampa while preparing for the draft.
“I was a little surprised, just because we hadn’t talked to them.” Shipley said. “And as far as I know, my agent hadn’t talked to them beforehand, but it was a good surprise.”
Shipley has a lot of catching up to do with first roster cuts down to 75 due on August 27th.
“It’s a totally different system as far as terminology itself.” Shipley said. “I’m going to have a busy day today and the next several days probably learning everything so that I get comfortable with it.”
Missing the entire training camp will add pressure onto Shipley to learn the Bucs’ offense quickly. Tuesday morning, Shipley practiced punt returns with the special teams unit, making sharp cuts and showing patience waiting for the block in front of him to develop. Shipley displayed great vision and speed, and said returning punts was something he enjoyed.
“My rookie year, I got to do a few in preseason and had a couple long ones. I love punt returns. Any chance I get to get out there, I’ll be out there.”
That willing-to-do-anything attitude was mirrored when Shipley spoke about his contributions to the Bucs in general, and specifically as a slot receiver, as task he handled his rookie season for the Bengals.
“I just have a feel for it.” Shipley said. “It comes naturally. You get open and catch the ball and those are two things that I love to do.
“I definitely feel like I will do anything I can to contribute and help this team win.It has been a little while since I’ve played in a regular season game. I have got to go out there and show what I can do. I am full-go right now.”
That full-go is a good sign for the Bucs who have signed two players in the offseason who have had injuries. Cornerback Eric Wright has been suffering from a lingering back injury, while defensive tackle Amobi Okoye had his knee scoped in May. Shipley said his knee feels fine, and by watching him blaze down the field for punt returns, there is no reason not to believe him.
“I feel good.” Shipley said. “[It’s] one of those deals, where I spent extra time warming it up and I will be icing it down afterwards. It feels good, ready to go.”
Shipley alluded to the knee injury being a possible reason he was waived by the Bengals, but the third year receiver was hesitant to answer for sure.
“Honestly, I’m not sure what their [Cincinnati’s] thought process was, but I’m glad to be in Tampa.” Shipley said. “I definitely feel like I was progressing. I don’t know it seemed like it was a situation that they had made before, so I don’t know. I feel like I was coming along and feeling good and progressing. But that’s good, because now I’ll be ready to go here.”
Tampa released Wallace Wright who had been handling some return duties and backed Preston Parker up as the slot receiver on the third team. With Parker’s history of fumbles, it appears the Bucs are not set on Parker being the only guy that plays as a slot receiver and returns punts. For Shipley, he’s prepared to work hard to prove his worth for at least the next six days, and looks forward to be a contributor in any way possible.
“Whatever they want me to do.” Shipley said. “Anything and everything. I think it’s a team that obviously has a lot of discipline going on, it’s going to be a great thing and I think this team is going to keep getting better and better. Obviously, [Bucs] got a great quarterback and a lot of great players.”
The Bucs still have 11 receivers on their 90-man roster, with Arrelious Benn still out with a sprained knee he suffered the first day of training camp. Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams look to be the only locks for a roster spot as Benn, Parker, Tiquan Underwood, Sammie Stroughter, Greg Ellingson, Armahd Lewis, Landon Cox, Ed Gant, and now Shipley are all fighting for the remaining four spots. Whoever brings the most value to the Bucs will get the nods, and Shipley is hoping his punt return abilities will assure just that.