Pewter Report Intern
Former Rutgers RB Brian Leonard signed with the Buccaneers this past spring to add depth to the running back position. So far, so good, says Leonard and head coach Greg Schiano, who likes Leonard's athleticism and ability.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are closing in on wrapping up their first week of the 2013 training camp and running back Brian Leonard is starting to show what kind of talent he can bring to Tampa Bay.
Leonard ranks fourth all-time rushing with 2,775 yards at Rutgers, and all-time rushing touchdowns (32). Leonard left Rutgers University with several awards that include the Freshman All-American in 2003 and the 2006 ARA Sportsmanship Award.
Coming out of college, Leonard was a notable NFL prospect as a running back but also with the potential to play the fullback position.
In 2007 Leonard made his professional debut when the St. Louis Rams after being drafted in the second round. Leonard’s first season in St. Louis with an injury that required surgery on both shoulders.
Leonard signed on with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2009 as a free agent where he was utilized as primarily a backup running back, and seeing action on third down. In 2012 had 106 rushing yards and 67 yards receiving for the Bengals.
Leonard joined the Buccaneers as an unrestricted free agent this past spring with no defined role. That is fine with Leonard.
“I’ll keep playing and figure out my role later as camp goes on,” said Leonard. “You know I feel like they [Buccaneers] know what I do well. I feel like I catch the ball out of the backfield well and protect well, and my roll at Cincinnati was all third downs and some special teams so I feel like I’m going to do some of that. Other than that I just got to keep performing and see if my role gets bigger.”
The Bucs had their first night practice at the Raymond James Stadium last Saturday and Leonard energized the crowd in attendance with a 35-yard touchdown run during the two-minute period.
“It felt good,” said Leonard. “It was great blocking by the line, it was just nice getting into the in zone, and I feel good. I feel healthy this year and I’m ready to go.”
Leonard is happy with his progress thus far and is still getting familiar with the playbook.
“I’ve learned three or four offenses and this is pretty tough, but once you learn it it’s a great offense to be,” Leonard stated. “I’m excited about it and I’m still learning it, new stuff everyday, and some of the younger guys are helping me out. Usually I’m the older guy helping other people out, but you know Doug’s helping me out and some of the other guys are helping me out so I’m getting it.”
Bucs offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan’s playbook may be new to Leonard, but his work ethic on the field is still the same. Practice makes perfect rings true.
“It’s just complex,” said Leonard. “It’s not difficult it’s just complex. You know you just got to learn it, there’s a lot of shifts and motions and stuff like that. Once you get the hang of it and once you repetition, get the repetitions of it, then you usually get it.”
After the offseason and first few days of camp Leonard is feeling comfortable with his transition. Familiarity with Schiano, who was his head coach at Rugters, is helping him get up to speed faster, as he knows what his head coach expects.
“I kind of knew what to expect from college,” Leonard said. “I think a lot of the guys that come in here don’t know what to expect. You know he [Greg Schiano] has one expectation and one goal for everyone and a lot of guys don’t get that. If you don’t, you know, you’re out of here, but the guys on this team really get it and they’re buying into coach Schiano’s program.”
On Sunday Schiano remarked that Leonard is a “tremendous athlete”, but one that may not always get recognition on the field because of his lack of exposure.
“He hasn’t had that much exposure, but I had a chance to see him as a high school kid playing basketball, football, every sport,” said Schiano. “He is an incredible athlete. He can jump, can run, and do all that stuff.”
Leonard knows the competition is high this training camp. The Buccaneers are set with starter Doug Martin for the running back position, but Leonard is battling several other running backs for the second spot on the depth chart.
“It’s great competition out there,” Leonard said. “It’s making us all better. You know we have to fight for jobs out here. No ones guaranteed a job so we got go out there and fight everyday and make this team.”
Schiano appears happy to have Leonard on the roster.
“The good thing is you know he is a little bit older, but he hasn’t played so much that he’s taken so many cumulative hits so I’m really hopeful that he can come in here and contribute with just what you mentioned, ad versatility,” Schiano said. “Is he in there, well you don’t know if we’re going to run, if were going to pass, is he going to pass protect. You know that’s good when you have a role player that they can’t really pigeon hole into a role if that makes sense.”
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