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John Wade vs. Sean Mahan

While it might not be a high profile position, the competition at the Bucs center spot arguably could be the most entertaining battle of all in training camp.

The 6-foot-5, 299-pound Wade enters training camp as Tampa Bay’s starting center for the fourth straight year. He has started 74 of the 94 career games he’s played in.

Despite coming off a serious knee injury that ended his 2004 season prematurely, Wade rebounded last year and started all 16 regular season games for the Bucs in 2006.

During the offseason, the Bucs approached the 31-year-old about restructuring his contract, and he obliged, which might have saved his roster spot for the 2006 season.

The Bucs already are preparing for life without Wade as their starting center. They likely will move last year’s starting right guard, Sean Mahan, to center to compete with Wade in training camp and preseason.

Mahan (6-3, 301) started all 16 regular season games and one playoff contest for the Bucs last year, but he is a bit undersized for the guard position and the team feels his future is at center.

The Bucs are anxious to see Mahan, who started eight regular season games at center in place of Wade in 2004, compete at center during training camp, where the team can better evaluate offensive linemen when they’re sporting pads.

Tampa Bay has to make a decision in terms of whether to re-sign him. Mahan is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent during the 2007 offseason.

Expect the Bucs to work Mahan into the rotation at training camp and in preseason just as they did during their three-day mini-camp in late-June. Mahan is one of the more intriguing players at Bucs traiing camp this year seeing as he could start at center or right guard, or he could wind up on the bench.

While Wade might beat him out initially, Mahan appears poised to become Tampa Bay’s starting center by next season if he’s re-signed since the Bucs seem comfortable having Jeb Terry and rookie Davin Joseph battle for the starting right guard job.

Advantage: John Wade



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