It’s been a trying week for Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Kenny Bell and Thursday’s official start of training camp offered a welcomed reprieve.
A former Nebraska Cornhusker, Bell is mourning the loss of former college teammate Sam Foltz, who was one of two people killed in a single-car accident Saturday in Wisconsin. Foltz, Nebraska’s current punter, was returning from a kicking camp with former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler and LSU kicker Colby Delahoussaye. Sadler was also killed and Delahoussaye suffered minor injuries.
Bell requested to focus on football when approached by reporters after practice.
“It’s been a tough week but I’m very happy to be back out here with these guys and surrounded by teammates and coaches,” he said. “It feels good to be back in Tampa, no doubt.”
The 24-year-old hasn’t played a single regular-season down but is in his second training camp with the Bucs. A hamstring injury stole Bell’s rookie season, causing him to be placed on injured reserve after appearing in the first two preseason games.
Despite the injury and last year’s setback, the team remains high on what Bell can bring to the team and Bell remains upbeat about just being back on the field.
“It’s not so much to show people, it’s just that I love playing football and I love being around these guys and playing the game,” said last year’s fifth-round draft pick. “So that’s what I’m anxious about. I’m anxious to go out here and enjoy my time and have some fun with guys that I love.”
Bucs WR Kenny Bell catches passes while teammates Freddie Martino, left, and Bernard Reedy slap at his arms after the catch. – Photo by: Eric Horchy/PR
A long, lean pass catcher with good speed, Bell displayed his potential on the practice fields of One Buc Place today. A couple of the day’s biggest cheers from fans in attendance came when Bell raced downfield and hauled in passes from quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Mike Glennon.
When asked what he’s concentrated on while being away from the field for so long, Bell kept it simple.
“It’s tough to say what I’ve gotten better at,” he said. “It’s the first day. I think what’s changed about me the most is my route running and catching the football. Most importantly my job is to run routes and catch it. I’m not supposed to be the biggest guy or the strongest guy. Fast definitely helps but running routes and catching the football is something that I’ve really focused on this year.”
Bell also took time to speak about playing for a new head coach and the changes he sees now that Dirk Koetter’s title has changed from offensive coordinator to head coach.
“I love Coach Koetter’s style,” he said. “It’s black and white. It’s either you do or you don’t. You get your job done or you didn’t. In this game, as harsh as that can be, that’s our reality. You catch the ball? No? You’re fired. We laugh about it but that’s the reality.
“It’s that kind of aggressive outlook [but he’s also] laid-back, it contradicts a little bit, but at the same time it works within the confines of our environment. It makes sense to us and that’s what Coach Koetter understands. He knows us very well.”
The training camp and preseason battle at wide receiver will be one of the most-watched competitions of the summer. Bell is one of 11 receivers vying for five or six spots on the active roster and two are locked up by Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans, two players he looks to model himself after.
“There are a lot of guys, from the guys I compete against in the DB position to guys within my own group like V-Jack and Mike, that I aspire to be like,” Bell said. “To have a career like V-Jack or make plays like Mike. Then there are guys like [Russell Shepard] that come out here and work their tail off and put it on the line for their teammates every day. You can jump around and find inspiration from all your teammates, especially when you have a group of guys like we have here.”
Bell joins Adam Humphries, Shepard, Donteea Dye and second-year pro Evan Spencer as the front runners to make the final 53-man roster. Also in camp are Jonathan Krause, Andre Davis, Bernard Reedy, Freddie Martino.