Just one day after officially signing a one-year contract with Tampa Bay, new Buccaneers linebacker Jeremiah Trotter joined his teammates at One Buccaneer Place on Wednesday as they began preparing to face the Seattle Seahawks.
A four-time Pro Bowler, Trotter didn’t hesitate to share his excitement about joining the Buccaneers, whom he visited and worked out for on Aug. 23.
“I’m excited to be here,” said Trotter. “When I came here for the first workout I really enjoyed being here and meeting with some of my teammates and coaches. I like the system. They have a great chemistry here, so all of those things were really big for me.”
The 6-foot-1, 250-pound Trotter was released by the Philadelphia Eagles during training camp. He originally entered the NFL in 1998 as a third-round draft pick with the Eagles.
With the exception of the 2002-03 seasons, Trotter had spent his entire career with Philadelphia. Needless to say, Trotter took Philadelphia’s decision to hand him his walking papers hard,
“If I said it didn’t hurt I would be lying, but you try to understand that it’s the nature of the business,” said Trotter. “You just have to keep moving forward.
“You know what? That chapter of my life is closed and I’m moving forward with my new team, the Bucs, and my new teammates. I’m excited to be here.”
Before signing with Tampa Bay on Tuesday, Trotter took a few weeks to carefully weigh his options. One of the players he leaned on for advice was Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia, whom he played with in Philadelphia last season.
“Yeah, I definitely took that into consideration,” Trotter said. “I talked to Jeff on the phone before I signed and he had nothing but great things to say about the city and the team and the chemistry and the coaches. That was a big part of it.”
Garcia, 37, signed with the Bucs as a free agent in March. He feels Philadelphia’s loss will be Tampa Bay’s gain in regards to having Trotter.
“It’s just great bringing a leader, a player like he is into this locker room,” Garcia said. “I think he can bring so many things, not just on the football field but in the locker room from a leadership stand point. He knows the game, he understands the game. He is very tenacious, he gets after it, he’s a hitter. He’s a guy who is going to bring intensity on the field and he’s going to push Barrett. He’s going to make sure the linebackers that are in there are doing their job or he’s going to be ready to step in. He’s willing to learn, willing to accept his responsibility. He just wants to get out there and play football and it’s great to have him here.”
The respect Trotter has for Garcia as a player is mutual in nature.
“You can’t even describe what he brought to the team coming in,” Trotter said of Garcia’s success in Philadelphia. “It’s tough on a team after you lose a star quarterback. He lifted up the offense and that carried over to the defense. He brought that fire and that leadership and took control over there. We made a big run there at the end of the season to get to the playoffs.”
Trotter recorded 940 tackles, nine interceptions, 12.5 sacks and nine forced fumbles during his tenure with Philadelphia.
However, at 30, some believe Trotter was released by the Eagles because he’s showed signs of slowing down. Others suggest that the 255-pound Trotter isn’t a good fit for Tampa Bay’s defense, which typically plays faster and lighter linebackers.
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said Wednesday that the team knew exactly what type of player it was getting when it signed Trotter.
“We’re trying to get a little bigger, honestly,” Gruden said. “There’s nothing wrong with having some bigger players. This is a big man’s league. We have some size. We have some smaller, quicker guys. The bottom line is that we’re not going to ask Jeremiah Trotter to change much about his game because of what he’s put on film. He is a very good, physical middle linebacker that can help us. Just because he’s not exactly like who has played here in years past doesn’t mean he can’t play here.”
Trotter, who is sporting jersey number 50 in Tampa Bay, isn’t concerned with what his critics are saying, though. He’s just focused on helping the Bucs win this season.
“You can’t worry about that,” Trotter said. “You always have critics, but you just can’t worry about what people say and what they think. You just have to keep working hard and when you are in between those white lines hit somebody in the mouth. That’s the only thing I can control, man. When I suit up, hit somebody in the mouth. That’s all I know how to do.
“I still believe that my physical style of play can help this team out in whatever way. I’m looking forward to getting out there and smash-mouthing somebody.”
Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said Trotter still is quick enough to drop back into coverage — something that is often times required of the middle linebacker in a Cover 2-style of defense.
“We think so,” Kiffin said. “We do. Sometimes you talk about Tampa 2 and [the middle linebacker] running down the middle, but we play a lot of things besides just that. We feel that some guys can play at a heavier weight and they play faster. Some people can’t carry it. But he has, he’s done it for a number of years.
“He’s very physical. He’s a real pro. He came in and worked out last week and I got to know him. He’s all about football. That’s the kind of person that you like to have in the locker room. There’s no doubt that he’s a real physical player. We just have to break him in and let him learn the system because if you don’t know the system, you can’t react.”
Trotter was signed to back up Bucs starting middle linebacker Barrett Ruud, who is taking over for Shelton Quarles (retired) this season.
One of the reasons the Bucs liked the idea of signing Trotter was because he is a player that leads by example, which is something some of the younger Bucs defenders can learn from.
“I think it’s a shot in the arm for our team,” Gruden said of the addition of Trotter. “Not only has he been a great performer in the NFL, inside those doors he’s a great leader. I really believe he’s going to help Quincy Black, Adam Hayward and our young defenders. He’s a pro football player and a physical guy and we have our work cut for us to get him ready to play."
As for how long it will be before Trotter sees action in games, Gruden suggested that decision would be based on the linebacker's ability to digest and grasp Tampa Bay's defensive scheme.
“Jeremiah Trotter is a good player,” Gruden said. “At times he has been great. The quicker he learns our stuff, the quicker you’ll see him on the field. He’s a leader on the football field.”
Ruud, who is a former 2005 second-round draft pick out of Nebraska, does not feel threatened by the addition of Trotter. In fact, he has embraced it.
“He’s a great player,” Ruud said of Trotter. “He’s a guy I’ve been watching for three years. The Eagles – we play a lot of the same teams – so you always see him on tape. He’s definitely a good player and he’s been a good player for a lot of years in this league.”
Ruud has started just five games in the NFL. He learned under one of the league’s best middle linebackers in Quarles, but Ruud believes Trotter can help him continue to improve as a player.
“I think he can help me a lot,” Ruud said. “He’s always been one of the premier take-on-blockers, point-of-attack guys, and that is always something you are always working on as a linebacker – trying to perfect that. I think he’s one of the better ones doing that. I’m definitely going to be picking his brain on stuff like that.
“Competition always breeds success and the cream always rises to the [top]. It’s only going to help the team with good competition. He’s a great player and I’m going to pick his brain as much as I can.”
The Bucs moved Ryan Nece to the Mike ‘backer spot to compete for a backup job behind Ruud in training camp and preseason. But Nece hasn’t grasped the position as quickly as the Bucs had hoped, which prompted the team to sign Trotter as an insurance policy.
However, Ruud knows that he must play well in order to keep his job as a starter and Trotter on the sideline.
“I don’t think I’m looking over my shoulder,” Ruud said. “There’s increased competition, but in this league I’ve learned that you’ve got to produce. If you don’t produce, you probably won’t play very long. I’ve always known that you’ve got to put what you can on tape and that’s all you can do really. Eventually they are going to get somebody else to do it.”
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