One of the most compelling aspects of Bucs training camp each is that the team brings 90 players to One Buccaneer Place and only 53 end up making the final roster. Nearly half of the players that report to Tampa Bay in August will be gone by early September when the final roster cuts come.
Second-year Bucs defensive end T.J. Fatinikun doesn’t have the luxury that three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy does. He’s not guaranteed a roster spot. He has to earn it in four short weeks. Fatinikun is living life on the roster bubble along with nearly 40 other men chasing their NFL dreams.
After coming to Tampa Bay after playing an entire season in the Arena Football League last year, Fatinikun notched nine tackles and shared a sack with McCoy at Washington. He’ll have to battle the likes of current starters Jacquies Smith and George Johnson and a host of reserves, including Larry English, Will Gholston, Lawrence Sidbury, Da’Quan Bowers, in addition to rookies Ryan Delaire and Jamal Young.
At 6-foot-2, 250 pounds, Fatinikun is not only considered undersized, but an underdog in training camp. With multiple entries over the next four weeks, Fatinikun will be sharing his training camp story exclusively with PewterReport.com readers in his Training Camp Diary. Follow along as Fatinikun lives life on the bubble and works to earn a roster spot and remain a Tampa Bay Buccaneer in 2015.
BRING ON THE VIKINGS!
By T.J. Fatinikun as told to Scott Reynolds
We are ready for our first preseason game! There is definitely excitement about going up to Minnesota – mad excitement. It’s a football game, an actual game. It’s what you work all offseason for all through OTAs. It’s time to go put it on the platform and perform. We’re all excited to be able to go have that opportunity to prove ourselves and make this roster.
Bucs DE TJ Fatinikun – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
We’re two weeks into training camp and we’re tired of going against each other. I want to see a guy in another jersey. I want to make impact plays on special teams and on defense and help my team win. We only won two games last year, so we want that winning feeling.
The Vikings stole a win from us last year in overtime. They did. That was the week after the bye week and we had things that we were really going to turn around. That was the first time we started kicking things in gear defensively. That overtime loss hurt. That’s one of those games at home we should have won.
Losing in that fashion is going it stick in your mind. All you can do is come out here now and fix every little thing that you did wrong and improve so you can go out there and do it your best.
One of the young, hard-working guys on our team is Ryan Delaire, an undrafted rookie free agent. Ryan is developing and he is doing pretty well. We like how Ryan works. He works pretty hard and he’s also improving. That’s going to help him out when the time comes to show himself against Minnesota. He is doing a good job and it’s good to see a young guy doing his best.
Ryan wants to learn and that’s all you can ask for from a young kid. That’s the hardest thing you have to overcome. I’m still learning. You are never going to be able to learn enough. It’s about that attitude you take about learning and coaching and going out there and being able to do what you do.
On the other end of the spectrum is Logan Mankins, our left guard and team leader. Logan is one of a kind. They say he’s old. He still plays Scrabble with the wooden pieces instead of Words With Friends online. He does crosswords in the newspaper. But he’s impressive because he’s been in the game so long and he has everyone’s respect.
Bucs LG Logan Mankins – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Logan brings that leadership quality we need – on both sides of the ball. If you catch Logan in the hallway he’ll engage you whether you are an offensive guy or a defensive guy, a rookie or a vet. It’s great having him around.
You know he came down last year the week before the season started with new teammates, a new offense and not being acclimated to this Tampa heat and humidity. Then he gets hurt in Week 1 and it’s an uphill battle for him the whole season.
But that’s what you want. He’s tough and every single one of our guys respects Logan. We appreciate having him here. Logan will be a team captain this year. He should be. I know he’s looking to perform better this year and he’s in great shape.
Logan started running sprints during practice with the offensive linemen that were in between reps – that shows his dedication. When you see him doing that you want to be better. It’s been a lot of fun seeing him work that way. He’s definitely an inspiration.
Buccaneers fans can follow T.J. Fatinikun on Twitter at @TFat96
Scott Reynolds is in his 22nd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I am very pleased to hear high praise for Logan Mankins. I am excited for the first preseason game. Go Bucs and go T.J.!
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