It was a long 2016 for Devante Bond. After pulling his hamstring in the preseason, the former Oklahoma Sooner came back to practice, only to realize he came back too early and re-injured his hamstring again.
Thus began Bond’s redshirt rookie year. In it, Bond became the token “clipboard guy.” But, not in a negative way. Throughout the season, Bond remained close with the team. He was in on all the linebacker meetings, and continued to hammer his playbook. Going into his second year, Bond is noticing the difference all that preparation made now that he’s back on the field.
“It was good having a learning year last year, so now things are just coming together,” Bond said. “The game is slowing down for me, so everything’s good. I was still involved last year. I was at all the meetings and learned as much as I could.”
The game slowing down is what Bond is noticing the most. When we spoke to him on Tuesday, he told us that in college most of your job is just knowing your position and doing it well. Once he got to the NFL, Bond realized that you not only have to know your job, but the offense’s as well, and anticipate how they’re going to attack. That’s something he learned from former Bucs linebacker, Daryl Smith.
“I talked to [Smith] a lot last year,” Bond said. “It’s one thing to know the scheme but you also have to know what’s coming at you. This year I know my job, but now it’s more about figuring out what the offense is going to try to do to me.”
Bucs LB Daryl Smith – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bond noted that having a player like Smith to help him take pages on a playbook and turn them into practical lessons was good to watch. Even though it hurt him to not be out there, Bond said his time on the sideline really was a blessing in disguise.
“I’ve picked things up a lot quicker,” Bond said. “Last year I was kind of lost. You know the learning curve and all that. But, I’ve definitely picked it up. It’s like second nature now. That’s what I figured out about last year. It sucked because being a competitor you want to be out there to compete and be out there with your team, but it was a blessing in disguise. I just kept learning, took everything I could, watched the vets, and learned how to be a pro.”
Bond is hoping the team allows him to rush the passer a bit more from that SAM linebacker spot he’s in line to fill. Before his time at OU where he recorded three sacks and 11 tackles for loss, Bond recorded 17 sacks and 27 tackles for loss at Sierra Community College. He also said that he played the “JACK” pass rushing role in the Sooner’s 3-4 front.
Bond is hoping to bring that added speed element to the line-of-scrimmage linebacker role in Tampa Bay’s 4-3 front. He knows he’s in line to be the starter come Week 1, but isn’t taking anything for granted.
“Nothing is given,” Bond said. “I knew I had it coming, but you gotta earn that job. So it’s not all said and done. I still got a lot more work to do coming through preseason and coming through camp. But I feel like if I worry about what I need to be worried about, that will take care of itself.”
Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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