The Bucs bypassed a few of the bigger name pass rushers, such as Justin Smith, Antwan Odom and Bobby McCray in free agency, opting to sign Marques Douglas and unheralded Jimmy Wilkerson instead.
By picking 20th in the first round, Tampa Bay didn't have the chance to draft premium pass rushers like Chris Long, Vernon Gholston or Derrick Harvey.
Instead of drafting a defensive end last weekend, the Bucs selected a defensive tackle – Dre` Moore – in the fourth round.
With just four months until the start of the 2008 regular season, Tampa Bay is still looking to upgrade its pass rush off the edge and that's why the team invited TCU defensive end Tommy Blake to its three-day rookie mini-camp on a tryout basis. Blake, who was regarded as a probable first-rounder entering the 2007 season after recording 19 sacks in his first three college seasons, went undrafted last weekend largely due to the fact that he suffered from depression and social anxiety disorder last summer and fall, according to published reports.
"The Bucs were the first people that talked to me, so I decided to see what they wanted and came down here to have some fun," Blake said. "Really just to get a feel for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I like Florida. I like the heat. I heard the coaches here are nice and I just came to check it out and see what is going on.
"There's not really a point to prove. I just love the game. I was just going out there and giving it my all."
Blake, a preseason All-American prior to the 2007 campaign, left the team in training camp and missed the season opener against Baylor. He returned for three games versus Texas, Southern Mississippi and Air Force, in which he recorded his first sack of 2007. But then another bout of depression surfaced that caused him to miss four straight games. Blake has said that the harassment of agents trying to recruit him and the weight of being scrutinized as a possible NFL first-round pick put an enormous amount of pressure on him and that triggered depression.
The 6-foot-3, 255-pound pass rushing terror that scouts loved in 2007 had ballooned up to 280 pounds due to his roller coaster senior season, in which he did return to TCU for the final five games – notching three sacks in those contests.
"I guess you can say it was enjoyable because I was around my teammates half the time," Blake said of his return to the Horned Frogs football team. "That lifted my spirits. It was fun. It wasn't bad."
Blake did not seem surprised by the fact that he went undrafted due to his mental illness, but it was disappointing nevertheless.
"It's everyman's dream, but some things you just have to deal with and roll with," Blake said.
After Saturday's practice at One Buccaneer Place, Blake made it clear that he did not want to discuss his mental illness incident publicly.
"Honestly, I'm not going to really talk about it too much anymore," Blake said. "I'm here to play football.
When asked if he was past his problems or if he at least has them under control, Blake said, ""We're good. We're real good."
"It was ups and downs [during my senior season]. A lot of people have to deal with a lot of things. Unfortunately, I had to deal with some things and I had to get it dealt with. I'm fine now."
The Bucs are looking to see how he handles the physical and mental challenges of the three-day rookie mini-camp before deciding whether or not to offer him a contract. Blake didn't reveal what he weighed, but he appeared to be in the 265-270-pound range, losing about 10 pounds or so from the excess weight he gained.
"Actually, I haven't weighed myself in a long while, but it's good," Blake said. "I've cut down a lot of weight.
"I think I showed them what I had to show them [at the rookie mini-camp]."
The Buccaneers front office and head coach Jon Gruden will ultimately decide whether that was the case or not.
"We want to just look at him," Gruden said. "He's had some well-documented ups and some welldocumented downs. But he's a young guy and we want to look at him for ourselves and try to get all the evaluations done in our minds that we can, and give the kid an opportunity to present himself as a pro football player. We'll judge our conclusions when we get them."
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Scott Reynolds is in his 25th 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 spent six years 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