On the first day of free agency, the Buccaneers moved quickly to sign their top free agent target. That player was former New Orleans Saints center Jeff Faine. After facing Faine twice per season the last two years, the Bucs seized the opportunity to add him to their young offensive line. Faine became the highest paid center in the NFL just one hour into free agency. Tampa Bay inked Faine to a six-year, $37.5 million deal.
"I'm definitely not swimming anymore," said Faine. "[The offense] is something I've picked up well. Obviously you can never learn enough, but it's definitely an offense that takes advantage of what the defense gives you. You have to be able to think on the run, and be able to adapt as the play is going. I think I'm picking it up pretty well."
In head coach Jon Gruden's offense, the center has more responsibility than the typical center in the NFL. Gruden's offense calls on the center to make the offensive line audibles, pick up blitzes, and administer the blocking assignments. Along with learning the offense, Faine has to master making the proper line calls in order for Tampa Bay's offense to have success.
"It's definitely an adjustment. It's something I welcome," said Faine of his new duties. "I like being able to have some input in where the offense is going and some responsibility in how we do. I welcome it for sure, and I love being down here. I came down here not just because of the contract, but because I see this team has the potential to win something and actually go out and play for [a championship], so I'm excited to be apart of it."
In addition to learning to the offense, Faine has to get to familiar with his new teammates, specifically the guards lining up on either side of him in Davin Joseph and Arron Sears. With the signing of Faine, many people feel his presence will help to excel the maturation of the young guards, and allow them to reach their Pro Bowl potential.
"They're still getting used to the game," said Faine. "Davin, I love his physical play. He really gets after it. That's something that really excites me. All these guys really get after it a lot. Davin really caught my eye when I was watching tape from the past year. Sears is coming along, he had the little surgery, but he's coming along well. Trueblood is a real good player out there. It is hard to say anything negative about anybody on this front. We got a quality line and I'm happy to be apart of it."
Faine feels very strongly about the possible future production of the Bucs offensive line. Faine was asked for the one word to describe the Buccaneers line.
"Explosive," said Faine. "I'm excited to be apart of this group. Not to take anything away from my past lines, but there's young potential here. I'm glad to work with these guys. It is exciting. Coach Gruden said it himself; he's never had a line like this. I'm excited to be apart of it and do something special."
The 6-foot-3, 291-pound Faine, is a key ingredient to the line being what Gruden envisions. In his career, Faine has started all 66 games he has played in since entering the league with the Cleveland Browns. Faine, 26, was an integral part of the success that the Saints had on offense over his two seasons in New Orleans. Over those two years, the Saints had the first- and third-ranked passing offense in 2006 and 2007, respectively.
In Cleveland, Faine worked with Bucs quarterbacks Jeff Garcia and Luke McCown. Faine was also a teammate of Bucs wide receiver Antonio Bryant. Having played with half of Tampa Bay's four quarterbacks, Faine is starting ahead of most free agent centers. Those quarterbacks can also catch Faine up to speed on what was done with past Buccaneer centers.
"I haven't really studied too much of the past centers here," said Faine. "I play a physical game. You can ask some of these guys from the past couple of years of going against them. They know how I play. I just like to get after it, and get down and dirty. That's what the job calls for and that's what I do."
A former first-round draft pick, Faine has earned the respect of defensive tackles around the league due to his physicality and aggressiveness. In his battles with Tampa Bay, Faine was known to get into some heated exchanges with Bucs defensive tackle Chris Hovan. The past games did not prevent Hovan from welcoming Faine to the team. However, going up against each other in training camp could lead to some more instances where the players get caught up in the competition.
"Not having pads on it's harder [to get angry with each other]," said Faine. "We're out here trying to take care of each other and not get anybody hurt right now. In camp I'm sure the tempo will pick up and we'll get after it a little bit."
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