Buccaneers' running back D.J. Ware hasn't been gone from the Giants long enough to even start receiving his mail in Tampa yet.
After spending five years with the defending World Champions, D.J. Ware was released on August 31st in order for the New York Giants to be within the 53-man roster limits.
A free agent for the first time, Ware chose to sign with Tampa Bay the following day. The newest member of the running back stable wants to contribute as much as possible for the Pewter and Red, and he hopes to prove to New York Sunday that they shouldn’t have let him go.
“I’ve got a couple of buddies on the other side,” Ware said, “I just want to go out and prove to them they let me go for no reason. I’ve got a new home and I’m glad to be here.”
Last year at his previous home, Ware had a very effective season, rushing for 163 yards on 46 attempts and receiving 27 passes for 170 yards. Nine of those carries came on third down with Ware converting four of them. The season before Ware contributed in special teams as well, returning 21 kicks for 432 yards.
In 81 career rushing attempts and 37 receptions, Ware has fumbled the ball one time. With the history of the Bucs’ ball security issues and head coach Greg Schiano’s abhorrence for fumbling, Ware’s ability to hang on to the ball make him even more valuable in third down situations. Ware understands the importance of ball security just as much as his coaches.
“It’s very important.” Ware said. “Without that ball, you don’t have anything. Our coaches preach that; the head coach over here preaches it and our position coach preaches it. It’s pretty much – ball or die, so you got to hold on to the ball with everything you have and every example – [could be] first, second down, third down, special teams – we got to have the ball, it’s very important, so we do just do everything we can to make sure it’s high and tight and defenders can’t get to it.”
Aside from the proximity to his home state, one of the biggest reasons Ware chose Tampa Bay was because of Bucs offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, who was a long time assistant with the Giants.
“[To] come down here with Sully (Mike Sullivan),” Ware said, “we had a great relationship when we were over with the Giants and I just hoped it would carry over to me coming down here and being with him again [and have] the same kind of relationship. We were talking, both of us are in new organizations, new beginnings, and we just want to impress and do the best that we can. I felt like I could come over and help Sully and Sully could help me and just have a good brotherhood.”
Sullivan has gotten a lot of buzz from both camps this week as he is thought to be a weapon for both teams. The Bucs feel Sullivan’s knowledge of the Giants will help the Buccaneers defense stop Eli Manning and the New York offense, while the Giants feel Sullivan makes the Bucs offense more like their own.
Ware compared the two offenses as a big brother-little brother type of situation, but also feels execution and drive will be the biggest difference.
“The Giants are the older brother and we’re the younger brother.” Ware said. “[There’s] going to be similarities in the game, you might look out there and see something that looked like the Giants just did, but it’s going to come down to execution and who wants it more and who’s going to go out and make the bigger plays in the game.”
Don’t count out Ware as a secret weapon; with five years with the Giants under him, Ware is also much attuned to what the defending Super Bowl Champs are going to do as anybody and has been trying to tell his new teammates on the offensive line as much as he can about the Giants’ sack-happy front four.
“You just got to let the game play itself out.” Ware said. “I just got to keep my eyes up and try to give them some tips or keys. Try to get them to stay firm in their protections, because those guys will try to up and under you, try to swim you, try to spin, try to do all kinds of things. They have a variety of weapons in their arsenal. You just got to try to contain them and keep them under control.”
Through all of the success and history Ware has with the New York Giants, playing at the Meadowlands once again will be bittersweet for Ware, but Ware makes it very clear who his team is now.
“It was kind of crazy leaving that locker room I was in and coming down here.” Ware said. “These guys have been great. They are great players to play with. It’s all intensity. Everybody is eager to learn, everybody is hungry. It’s just great team chemistry. I love it.”