A little over a week after they held a three-day rookie mini-camp, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers conducted the first of 14 organized team activities at One Buccaneer Place on Tuesday.

The Bucs had better than 90 percent participation at the voluntary workout.

“It was a good turnout,” said Bucs running back Cadillac Williams. “We had pretty much the whole defense, and all of the offensive starters here, so it was a really good turnout today.”

Among the players missing from Tuesday’s organized team activity were kicker Matt Bryant, punter Josh Bidwell and cornerback Brian Kelly. Bucs head coach Jon Gruden was not available after practice to comment on any of those players’ absences.

Tampa Bay’s NFL Europe players – Jared Allen, Jermaine Taylor, Jason Nerys, Phil Bogle, Jonte Buhl, Keith Wright, Jacque Lewis, Jonathan Carter, Xavier Beitia, Mike Shafer and Brian Simnjanovski – were not in attendance as the NFLEL season has not yet concluded.

Although a few rookies, including defensive end Charles Bennett (Clemson), linebacker Anthony Trucks (Oregon) and cornerback Justin Phinisee (Oregon), are not permitted to participate in OTAs until their respective schools graduate, Tuesday’s workout allowed most of the Bucs rookies to practice with their veteran teammates for the first time.

“I’m just trying to learn,” said Bucs first-round pick, guard Davin Joseph. “Coach Gruden is throwing a lot of stuff at us right now, and I’m just trying to adjust and make a good first impression and lasting impression.”

Tampa Bay is scheduled to hold two more OTAs this week on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.

The Bucs will hold their final three organized team activities from June 20-22. Those three practices are mandatory workouts for the players.

Fonoti Working On Getting In Shape
New Tampa Bay Buccaneers guard Toniu Fonoti made a rather “big” impression in his first meeting with the local media after the team’s OTA session on Tuesday.

The mammoth guard, who is listed at 6-foot-4, 350 pounds on the team roster, indicated that he was much heavier than that. PewterReport.com had reported that Fonoti weighed 400 pounds when he signed with Tampa Bay on March 17, and it is believed that his excessive weigh contributed to him failing his physical in Oakland shortly before he signed a one-year contract with the Bucs.

Fonoti wouldn’t disclose his current weight to the media, but mentioned, “I can’t really say anything other than that I am a big guy.”

When asked if he was close to his optimum playing weight of 370 pounds, which is what he played at while at Nebraska, Fonoti said, “Probably around there. I’ll be there in a little bit. I’m not far from it. I’m almost there, but I’ve got about 10-15 more pounds left to go.”

Fonoti said that one of the reasons for signing with Tampa Bay was their track record with players like Chris Hovan, who successfully resurrected his career with the Buccaneers.

“I’m trying to do the same thing,” Fonoti said. “Another re-start. Another place. Another team. Another management. I’m just trying to get used to it.”

He is also trying to get used to head coach Jon Gruden’s voluminous playbook and the very wordy play calls.

“I’m just getting used to the plays and the terms and stuff like that,” Fonoti said. “I’m just trying to pick it up and catch up to some of the guys here. Everything that they do we did in San Diego and the two teams I’ve been with already. They like to run the ball, so I like to do that, too. Everything they do I really enjoy.

“They really want a hard-nosed football player, so I’m just trying to bring that. I’ll do my part in trying to make this O-line fierce and try to make everybody recognize this O-line.”

Fonoti said that the Bucs had him playing exclusively at guard, and primarily on the left side, although he has taken some reps at right guard, too.

Simms Pleased With Bucs’ Offseason
Fourth-year quarterback Chris Simms entered Tuesday’s OTA workout as the starting quarterback for the first time in his pro career. Unfortunately for Simms and his teammates, Tuesday’s workout at One Buc Place was a rainy one.

“It hasn’t rained here in five months and then it has to rain the day I have to come out here and throw the football,” said Simms. “That’s a little backwards. It was all right. We did okay. We missed a few throws that we should normally hit, but we haven’t thrown with a wet ball in a while.”

Simms, who signed a one-year contract worth $2.1 million as a restricted free agent this offseason, was pleased with the Bucs’ offseason. He was especially pleased to see one of his favorite targets – wide receiver Michael Clayton – participating in the team’s first OTA workout of the year after No. 80 missed all of the Bucs OTA practices last year while recovering from knee surgery, which contributed to his sub-par sophomore season.

“People say to me all the time that we didn’t sign any free agents on offense, but people have to realize that we played last year without Mike Clayton for most of the year,” said Simms. “It was a credit to him that he didn’t complain at all one time the whole year when he was only 60-70 percent and he kept battling. He’s going to have a big year this year. You’ll see the Mike Clayton you saw from his rookie year and he’s going to make our team that much better.”

Simms also liked Tampa Bay’s first two 2006 draft selections, which just happened to be two offensive linemen – guard Davin Joseph and tackle Jeremy Trueblood.

“They look real athletic, I’ll tell you that much,” Simms said. “I’m sure their brains are swimming right now, but they look they part. That’s for sure. We’ll see how they keep going, but today, there weren’t many mental mistakes. That’s a start. Physically, they’ll have no problem. They’ll catch up right away.”

It’s A Numbers Game
Several Bucs players have switched jersey numbers.

Bucs running back Earnest Graham, who sported jersey No. 33 last year, is now No. 34. Rookie wide receiver Maurice Stovall has switched from No. 17 to No. 85. Rookie tight end T.J. Williams has traded in No. 86 for No. 46. Jersey numbers 47 and 99, which had last been worn by safety John Lynch and defensive tackle Warren Sapp, are not being sported by any current Bucs players.

If you liked this story, be sure to get the inside scoop and more detailed information on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offseason plans regarding roster changes, free agency and the NFL Draft with a Pewter Insider premium subscription.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

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: sr@pewterreport.com
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