Just one day after signing a contract with Tampa Bay, wide receiver David Boston participated in his first practice as a Buccaneer Thursday when the team held its third and final organized team activity of the week.

Boston’s debut didn’t take place on the practice fields of One Buccaneer Place, though. Instead, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden took the team down the street to conduct Thursday’s OTA at Raymond James Stadium.

“It’s great to have him,” Bucs quarterback Chris Simms said of Boston. “He’s been a star in this league for a long time. He’s been through some injury problems, but I know that as an offense we’re all excited to have him here.”

Injuries are what prevented Boston from signing with a team until late May. He has played in just five regular season games over the past two seasons, both of which ended prematurely due to a patella tendon injury in his left knee.

However, Boston says he’s close to being 100 percent again after two suffering through two frustrating injury-plagued seasons with the Dolphins.

“I’m on my way – I’m about 90 percent right now,” said Boston. “I still have a little more work to do, but I still have plenty of time between now and training camp to do that.”

The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Boston originally entered the NFL in 1999 as a first-round pick out of Ohio State. He has since caught 315 career passes for 4,699 yards (14.9 avg.) and 25 touchdowns.

While he possesses several impressive attributes, including 4.4 speed, soft hands and tremendous playmaking ability, Boston has also brought some baggage to the teams he’s played with.

After spending the first four years of his career in Arizona, where he had his best season in 2001 by catching a career-high 98 passes for 1,598 yards (16.3 avg.) and eight touchdowns, Boston signed with San Diego as a free agent in 2003.

Boston had an impressive debut with the Chargers by hauling in 70 passes for 880 yards and seven touchdowns in 14 regular season games, but that journey turned into just a one-year stint after a rift reportedly began between he and head coach Marty Schottenheimer.

In 2004, Boston joined the Miami Dolphins, but he missed the entire 2004 regular season with a knee injury. To make matters worse, the NFL suspended Boston in December of ’04 for four games for testing positive for steroids. He served that suspension while on injured reserve with the knee injury.

That same year, Boston was arrested at the Burlington International Airport in Vermont and charged with simple assault on a ticket agent. He later pled not guilty to the charge.

With allegations of steroid use and the assault charge behind him, Boston said he’s grown up quite a bit over the past two years.

“I feel like I have matured,” Boston said. “I’m 27 years old now and I have a wife and a daughter now, and I devote my life to them. When it’s time to work, I work hard. I just try to base all of my decisions around that.”

Bucs running back Michael Pittman, who played with Boston in Arizona for three seasons (1999-01), believes his former teammate has turned a corner and will revive his career in Tampa Bay.

“His attitude is very humbled,” Pittman said of Boston. “He’s the same David Boston now that I met in Arizona. I really don’t know – I can’t speak for him, but the success he did have might have gone to his head a little bit. I really don’t know. He’s always acted the same around me. The injuries are what I think have really slowed his career down because David Boston has the talent to get the job done.”

While he’s been humbled by his off-the-field incidents, Boston has a different perspective on life in the NFL, which went from a healthy one to an injury-plagued one in a relatively short period of time.

“It’s opened my eyes a little bit in that my first three or four years in the league I never got hurt and over the last few years I’ve battled injuries,” said Boston. “I’ve seen one side and I’ve seen the other side. I’ve always had the passion to play the game and I love to compete, so that’s keeping me going all of the time.”

With his knee injury completely healed, the Bucs are slowly working Boston into the rotation of a stable of wide receivers that includes veterans Joey Galloway, Michael Clayton and Ike Hilliard, and four draft picks from the past two years in Larry Brackins, Paris Warren, J.R. Russell and Maurice Stovall.

“They’re not giving me a lot of reps now,” said Boston. “I just go out there and take about 15-20 reps, and I’ve felt fine doing that every day.

“I’m full speed now. It’s just about taking things slow and learning the offense. They’re going to work me in really slowly, probably give me 15-20 reps at a time, until I understand the offense and can go on a consistent basis.”

With Boston on the mend, several teams expressed interest in signing the talented wide receiver, but he ultimately decided to ink a deal with the Buccaneers because of head coach Jon Gruden.

“I had a few visits lined up and as I got closer to the end of my rehab I narrowed my options,” said Boston. “I came on the visit here and the Bucs welcomed me with open arms. I’m glad to be a part of that. Coach Gruden has a passion for the game that I love, so we have that in common. I think it worked out well.”

Boston did his homework on the Bucs and relied on feedback from his former Arizona teammate and former Tampa Bay RB Thomas Jones, who played for the Bucs during the 2003 regular season.

“Thomas Jones is one of my really good friends,” said Boston. “I talked to him a little bit and he was telling me about how the training camp here works and how the coaches treat the guys. He spoke really highly of them, so that sat well with me.”

Jones was one of several veteran players to resurrect their careers in Tampa Bay. The list includes Jones, Pittman, WR Joey Galloway, QB Brian Griese and defensive tackle Chris Hovan.

“I think Coach Gruden sees the potential in some of these guys, and I know he sees it in David,” said Pittman. “I talked to Coach Gruden about David before they brought him in here, and I told him, ‘Coach, he’ll work for you, man. He’ll go out there and he’ll bust his butt for you.’ He’s a great, great athlete, and he did some really great things before he got hurt. I think he’s really going to help this offense out this year.”

Boston signed with Tampa Bay in hopes of adding his name to the list of players that have turned their careers around with the Bucs.

“If you look at Coach Gruden, a lot of guys have come here in the past and weren’t on top of their game then, but he kind of rocket-launched them off,” said Boston. “I’m looking for him to do that to me.”

Bucs Hold OTA At Raymond James Stadium
Tampa Bay decided to break up the routine of their OTAs Thursday by having the players and coaches travel just down the street to Raymond James Stadium for the voluntary practice.

Not only did Thursday’s OTA workout break up the routine, it helped the players get better acclimated to game-like conditions and, of course, their home stadium.

“It’s great to go out there,” Bucs quarterback Chris Simms said. “You get sick of coming out [to One Buc Place] on the practice fields every day, so it’s fun to go there. They fire the cannons on the ship and do the whole nine yards. It really gives everyone a feel for the stadium and gives everyone an idea of what it’s going to be like in a few months.”

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