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.
CAMP ENDS WITH MNF BASH VS. THE BENGALS
By T.J. Fatinikun as told to Scott Reynolds
We were winless at home last year at Raymond James Stadium, so it will be huge for us to win at home on Monday Night Football against the Bengals. There is just something about home games. We have to change our mentality at home. We have to hold it down.
You want to win at home whether it’s preseason, regular season or a practice in the stadium – we have to hold it down. We want to be able to do things right at home. It will be huge for us to get a win at home and create some momentum so that we can carry it over into the regular season when we start off at home.
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Getty Images
I’m happy for Jameis Winston to finish his first preseason game strong and get that touchdown in there. He’s got a bright season ahead of him. He gets better every day, and the one thing I notice about him is he never dwells on any negative thing that happens. He shrugged off sacks. He shrugged off his pick.
He builds on the positive. I’m sure he’s excited about this Monday Night Football game coming up because he’s a big-time grinder and he’s going to be a primetime star. This will be an exciting debut for him at our stadium.
You want to see Jamies sustain success, but to see him shake off a slow start and continue to get better in that Vikings game is big. I like seeing that. He had to deal with a lot – bad snaps, sacks and running around – and for him to bounce back and continue to plug away, make the right checks, throw a nice deep ball to Vincent Jackson and then run it in there for a touchdown, that’s nice for his first game – his first game ever at the NFL level. Jameis is going to get better and that’s the exciting thing.
We haven’t talked about Lavonte David yet. Lavonte deserves every bit of that contract extension he got. I’m sure you could ask anyone in our facility and they would say the same thing. He’s a great guy and a good friend. He’s very humble and he deserves that extension and to be the highest-paid (outside) linebacker. You can call on Lavonte for anything and he’ll be there for you. He’s a great leader for us – not just on defense, but for the whole team. I’m excited for him.
Tony McDaniel, our defensive tackle, is a newcomer to our room. I love Tony’s attitude. His attitude is amazing. We just keep getting better up front.
Tony’s got a Super Bowl ring and he’s played with Clinton McDonald up in Seattle. I look up to Mac (McDonald) for a lot of different reasons. Mac is mentally sharp and comes to work every day and he’s a tone-setter, and that’s what you like. His tone is the same way every day. We’ve had some hot, chippy practices and Mac is always our enforcer on the D-line. We need that edge. It’s good for us.
Cashuad Lyons, one of our rookies, also had a great game for us at the defensive tackle position. We call him “Cash.” He came free twice and almost had two sacks up in Minnesota. He just has to finish. Cash works hard and he’s improving.
Bucs DE TJ Fatinikun and DT Gerald McCoy – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Even though he missed on those two sack opportunities he turned around and ran hard towards the ball. That’s what you want to see. Those are things you look for because that means he’s taking in the coaching. He also had a nice hit on a running back and really lowered the boom. Cash is continuing to get better.
Our training camp is over and I’m trying to get my leg right and get back out on the field so I can play in these preseason games. I want to thank our fans for showing up big in training camp for us. They were great with having to deal with all of the delays due to the rain, and the rain itself and the heat.
Thank you guys so much! Please continue to believe in us and believe in what we’re doing. We’re going to turn this ship and around and get it sailing in the right direction. The next time I’ll see you will be on Monday night – I hope you’ll be ready!
Buccaneers fans can follow T.J. Fatinikun on Twitter at @TFat96
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd 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
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Hang in there. You’ll be healthy soon. One thing I know is that the GM and Coach are a class act and they will treat you fairly. Thank you T. J. for your energy.
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