The Tampa Bay Buccaneers decided to mix up the training camp practice routine at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex on Wednesday morning.
About midway through the two-hour practice, the theme music to Monday Night Football began blaring from the speakers in the end zone and head coach Jon Gruden called for his players to form a circle near the 15-yard line for what is known as the Oklahoma drill.
This drill called for the quarterback to hand the ball off to a running back, and for the offensive lineman to attempt to hold off the defensive lineman in a narrow, confined space enclosed by the entire team.
As if that wasn't enough pressure, Bucs Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon was a special guest at the morning practice and observed the Oklahoma drill.
Bucs DE Kevin Carter stole the show when he shed a block from tackle Donald Penn and slammed RB Kenneth Darby to the ground for the tackle. That play got Carter's defensive teammates and the fans in attendance fired up. It also fired up Carter and tight end John Gilmore, who began pushing each other after the play.
"Lee Roy Selmon was here. He's a [Oklahoma] graduate, so I guess we did the Oklahoma drill in honor of him," said Carter. "It's always fun, though. Those little things in the middle of camp kind of break up the monotony. It builds camaraderie, too."
Carter's play during the Oklahoma drill apparently caught Selmon's attention.
"Kevin Carter is experienced and tough as nails," Selmon said.
Not only did he have what Gruden called "the play of the day" during the practice, Carter also made his debut on the offensive side of the ball as a tight end during a goal line session.
Carter, 34, originally entered the NFL as a first-round draft pick in 1995. He has since notched 100.5 career sacks while playing for St. Louis, Tennessee, Miami and Tampa Bay. But Carter has never played offense in the NFL … until now.
"I've been begging for about 14 years now to do something on offense or get in on goal line, so I guess Coach Gruden is finally the first coach to listen to me," said Carter. "Coach Gruden approached me about it in the spring, but I asked him about it all last year. Hey, the more you can do it helps keep you around longer, right?"
The use of Carter is not the first time Gruden has used defensive linemen on offense. Former defensive end Ellis Wyms was used as a tight end and former nose tackle Anthony McFarland was used as a fullback. But former under tackle Warren Sapp was the defensive player that received the most playing time on offense under Gruden. In 2003, Sapp recorded four catches for 39 yards and two touchdowns.
"I've seen how Coach Gruden used those guys here and there," said Carter. "It's not just about scoring a touchdown or anything like that. When you bring a defensive lineman down on the goal line it kind of throws a monkey wrench in there because people don't know what to expect. They don't know what is going to happen. If we can throw somebody off and get in the end zone one more time that makes all the difference in the world."
Gruden made a point to emphasize the fact that using some of his defensive players on the offensive side of the ball is not a gimmick.
"We used Sapp and he caught touchdown passes," Gruden said. "The touchdown we ran in Philadelphia [in 2002], I think it was 97 Goal Line and he was at the point of attack. We put Sapp down there and we needed results. We lost Anthony Becht and he was a hell of a blocker. We understand Jerramy Stevens' status for the first two games, and we like to use three tight ends in the game down there by the goal line. We've used an extra offensive tackle, which we have in the playbook, but Kevin Carter has played a long time. He understands pad level. He understands that it's going to be loud around the goal line. You saw what he did in that Oklahoma drill. He's going to help us I think if we need him."
Tampa Bay acquired two tight ends during the offseason in Ben Troupe and Gilmore. Troupe was held out of Wednesday morning's practice with a mild concussion. The team also re-signed Stevens, but he will be suspended for the first two regular season games of the year.
Still, the Bucs are fairly pleased with their group of tight ends, which includes three-starter Alex Smith and could feature Carter from time to time.
"The whole group is very versatile," said Casullo. "All of the guys can both block and catch. Some a little stronger at the blocking than they are at the catching. Others are stronger at the catching than they are the blocking. But as a group, I'm not sure if I've ever worked with a group as good as this one."
Carter showcased his blocking ability as a tight end by helping to open up a lane for running back Earnest Graham, who scored a touchdown off the left side of the line on the play.
The two-time Pro Bowl defensive end is confident in his blocking ability, but does he ever see a himself in a situation where Gruden calls for him to catch the ball as a receiving tight end?
"Oh, I have the hands," said Carter. "All I need is the call." LATEST PEWTERREPORT.COM TRAINING CAMP HEADLINES
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