Kevin Pamphile wasn’t exactly thrilled when J.R. Sweezy became the newest Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive lineman this spring.
It’s nothing personal, just a natural reaction to seeing a job opportunity passed along to someone else.
“I was just hoping after playing a couple of times at left guard stepping in for Logan they’d give me a shot at it, winning the job,” Pamphile said, referring to retired former starter Logan Mankins. “But at the end of the day I decide. It doesn’t matter where they put me, I just have to do what I can to help this team win.”
A couple weeks into training camp, the team’s ultimate desire is still for Sweezy to start between left tackle Donovan Smith and either Joe Hawley or Evan Smith at center. Team’s don’t sign linemen to five-year, $32.5 million contracts simply for depth, after all. The problem with that, however, is a lingering back injury that sent Sweezy to California to get checked out by a specialist.
Bucs OL Kevin Pamphile is working to start at left guard this season if newcomer J.R. Sweezy doesn’t get healthy.
That puts the Bucs and Pamphile right back where they were before Sweezy’s March 10 signing. Other than a brief, three-day absence from training camp for undisclosed personal reasons, Pamphile has been at One Buc Place taking the majority of first-team reps at left guard.
“He’s doing well,” Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter said of Pamphile’s performance. “I’ve said multiple times, that if J.R. wasn’t ready we’d be fine with Kevin at left guard. In Kevin’s mind, he was coming out to compete for a first-team position regardless of what happened with J.R. He’s handled himself well and now he’s in position to play.”
A reason for the team’s hesitance slotting Pamphile right in at the position following Mankins’ retirement may be the former fifth-round draft pick’s unfamiliarity on the interior. He came to Tampa Bay as a left tackle from Purdue who was recruited as a defensive lineman that didn’t even start playing football until his senior year of high school.
The emergence of left tackle Donovan Smith last season combined with the signing of right tackle Gosder Cherilus caused the team to shift Pamphile to guard. He started Week 5 at home against Jacksonville when Mankins was out with an injury but his overall participation was limited to about 20 percent of all offensive snaps last season.
Pamphile said Monday that tackle remains the position he prefers and that he’s most comfortable playing, but that he’s been open and willing to the shift to guard from the get-go. That doesn’t mean it’s been a seamless transition, though.
“If I say it’s been great would you believe me?” he said. “It’s been stressful but at the same time I have to own up and make sure I’m prepared for every position, whether it’s tight end, tackle, guard or center. It’s been tough. “I was a little nervous [last year] because I hadn’t played guard since my sophomore year in college so just to get the footwork down was key. I just latched onto Logan and said, ‘Logan, give me some information to look for, what not to look for. Obviously it helped me a ton just leaning on him. He just said to keep playing aggressive. No matter how bad the set looks, just keep playing aggressive. Obviously I was still new to the position at the time, but it turned out to be a good position for me.”
Free-agent signee J.R. Sweezy came to Tampa Bay to start at left guard, but hasn’t been able to participate.
Even though it’s lining up just a few feet to the right of left tackle, the differences in what’s demanded can be dramatic.
“Tackle, you have more spacing, you have to be more athletic,” Pamphile said. “Trouble is you’re on an island by yourself. Guard, you’re pretty much up close to the defensive tackle. Gerald can be a beast. But also you have help. So it’s the best of both worlds. I love playing either one.”
Koetter credited position coach George Warhop with getting the team’s offensive linemen trained and prepared.
“I think George does a great job of training these guys to play multiple positions,” Koetter said Monday. “With Donovan out the last couple of days and Kevin sliding out to left tackle and Evan sliding into left guard, you have to have versatility in this league because we’re only going to have seven on game days. It’s a good test for us. Unfortunate for Donovan Smith, but we expect him back tomorrow.”
Depending on the status of Donovan Smith, Pamphile would be next in line to play some left tackle Saturday in Jacksonville. The Bucs’ second-year tackle again did not participate in practice Monday. Pamphile filled in and Evan Smith took the bulk of the snaps at left guard.
“Back to the glory days,” Pamphile said. “It felt good. But it’s just for today with Donovan out. Tomorrow, back to left guard.”
Regardless of where he lines up or what happens with Sweezy, Pamphile says he’s ready to be whatever player the Bucs need him to be.
“I still have the same mindset I’ve always had, that wherever the team needs me to play, I’ll play with my full capabilities to help the team win,” Pamphile said. “I come out with the same mindset as a starter. Even when I was the sixth guy or starting, it doesn’t matter to me.”
Pamphile has been getting beat like a drum out there, try someone else
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