Thunder in the skies, thunder on the field.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers strapped the shoulder pads on for the first time at training camp Saturday morning and a few players couldn’t wait to try them out.
One of those guys was rookie linebacker Cassanova McKinzy. The 23-year-old is in camp as an undrafted free agent from Auburn and he did a good job drawing attention to himself with a couple of the day’s biggest hits.
First it was tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins that got thumped to the turf after making a catch on a quick out. Then wide receiver Russell Shepard needed to pick himself off the grass at One Buc Place when he got to know McKinzy a little better.
“I’m just trying to bring the physicality to the team and defense show what type of player I am,” McKinzy said. “Ain’t nothing soft about me. I like the physical part of the game.”
McKinzy (6-foot-3, 253-pounds) went undrafted this spring despite putting up some impressive numbers as a senior with Auburn. He finished third on the team with 74 tackles and led all defenders with 10 tackles for loss and five sacks.
The Bucs have 10 linebackers in camp and McKinzy is one of four rookies, joining Micah Awe, Luke Rhodes and sixth-round draft pick Devante Bond.
Fans in attendance at camp’s first public practice session loved the physicality, but not everyone appreciated it all. Safety Major Wright delivered the first hit of the morning to Brandon Myers and the tight end took exception.
So did head coach Dirk Koetter.
“That was a cheap shot,” Koetter said after practice. “He would have been ejected, he would have been fined and it’s a 15-yard penalty. We don’t need those kind of hits. Those kind of hits don’t do us any good because they won’t be good on Sunday.”
It wasn’t all bad, though, Koetter said.
“Now, there are some other hits out here that, there’s some banging, they’re legal,” the first-year front man said. “But I always talk to these guys. We have to take care of each other on the field. I mean, there’s hitting in live contact and there’s hitting against our teammates. Sometimes the rookies have a hard time learning that. Like everything out here, it’s a work in progress.”
Get after them Koetter. Lazy play led to all those penalties last year.
Pulling for this kid. If you’re signing undrafted free agents, might as well get them from big time programs from the SEC. Think he wasn’t drafted because he plays strong side backer, not a premium position, and senior players are sometimes over looked. If he excels at ST’s, he could replace Smith on the SS down the road. Keep laying the wood.
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