Bucs general manager Mark Dominik talked to the media on Wednesday morning regarding Tampa Bay's decision to reinstate guard Arron Sears, a former second-round pick and starting left guard, after his offseason, training, preseason and regular season abscence due to a personal issue.
Listed below is the entire Q&A with Dominik from Wednesday morning.
Dominik's opening statement regarding Sears. "This week I'm not going to make Arron Sears available," said Dominik. "We're going to take it slow with him. It was important for us to let Arron feel comfortable coming back in the building. You won't see him practicing this week. He'll be conditioning all week and try to work on getting himself in shape. As we work on integrating him back onto the football team, that includes [the media]. You may or may not see him. He's in the building and he's doing things. He's working with our strength and conditioning coach. This week I'd like to let him work on getting reacquainted with the team. That's important to us."
When did he reach this decision to return? "I have to give him a lot of credit. He's been very good about staying in contact with me. I give [agent] Sean Kiernan a lot of credit, too. It's been a difficult process. He spent a lot of time working through this. Over the last couple of weeks it's kind of come to this date where we were comfortable doing that. By league rule, we were allowed to bring him in and work him out. We did that. We gave him a quick workout and a physical test just to see how he did. I had a conversation with him and he lived up to everything we asked him to do. When he came back and asked for permission to return we were happy to have him back."
How would you describe his physical conditioning based on what you saw in the workout? "Not great. The guy hasn't played organized football since early April, so he needs to work on getting himself in physical conditioning."
What have you learned about Arron's condition and what can you share with us to help us understand what he's been dealing with, even in general terms, what he had to do to get himself back in this building? "At some point I'll let Arron talk about that when he's more comfortable talking about that. The only thing I can say is I'm proud of Arron, his family, his agent, our organization and the league. It's a combined effort to get him where he is today. Hopefully he can take a step forward."
Were there some points during this process where there wasn't a lot of movement? Did this come together quickly? "I'd say this has been a slow train. That's how we've gotten to this point where we've checked the boxes and feel comfortable at this point."
At the end of the two-week period where you have a roster exemption for Arron what are the Bucs' options with Sears? "We have a choice to put him back on our 53-man roster, or he can go back on our reserve list. There are some other reserve lists he could go on as well depending on how things go."
Can he get into football shape in two weeks? "You're not going to get in great football shape, but we'll see how the whole test progresses and see how he does. We'll make a determination then."
Do you feel Arron has cleared some sort of hurdle regarding his personal issues? "I'm feeling better about it. As you sit down and talk to him over the week or so and over a period of time, and after my conversations with his agent, I'm comfortable enough that he's comfortable enough being here."
What are the options after the two weeks are up? "There are different reserve lists you can place him on depending on how the weeks go," said Dominik.
Realistically can Sears contribute this year, or is this about getting him ready for next year? "I'd say in my mind it would be wishful thinking to think he could contribute this year. I mean, because he does have to get himself in really good football shape number one. He has to get himself comfortable in a playbook he really doesn't know number two, and that is a lot to ask over the last seven weeks of the regular season. It is encouraging that he is here today." Describe your meeting with Sears? "Well just talking to him yesterday I was very pleased with where he was in terms of his excitement to be back. His mind set. His determination was very good. What he showed me last week was very important, so all those things added up." When was the last previous time you saw him? "I had physically seen him, well April, was the last real heavy interaction." The next time you saw him was when he came to the workout? "I had seen Arron on another occasion just to see how he was doing. When you are on reserve/did not report you are still allowed to communicate." Was that meeting here or in Alabama? "He was here in Tampa.".
What impact has his absence had on the team? "The guy that in February was a guy that we were looking forward to as being a building block of what we are doing. It has allowed Jeremy Zuttah to try and fill into a role to see what Jeremy Zuttah is. Arron is a talented player. He proved that his rookie year when he was an all-rookie starting guard in the National Football League. Any time you take that out it hurts a little bit. It is what it is. Zuttah has had a great opportunity and he will continue to battle."
If Sears was here, Zuttah could have played at center when Faine was injured. "That's a fair statement. I mean, again, I'm on the same page as coach Morris on that. There are no excuses. We move forward, and we are excited about today."
Does Sears want to play or again, or is he coming back because it is something he feels he has to do for money? "I got a sense of hunger in his eyes. I don't think he'd have to be here if he didn't want to be. In fact, I he wouldn't be here if he didn't want to be here.
Was he excited to be here? "Yes, he was very excited to be and work with Kurt Shultz. He was fired up."
Will he be in meetings this week? "This week is about conditioning, just conditioning."
Do you expect to see Sears on the field again? "I really hope to." Is the timing of his comeback at the 10th week about accrued service? "No." Does it count towards an accrued season? "No.".