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Pewter Report has fielded quite a few questions regarding Bucs linebacker Cato June and his health status this offseason.
That's because June suffered a broken foot in Tampa Bay's regular season game vs. Carolina on Dec. 30.
Tampa Bay signed June during the 2007 offseason, and he delivered in his first year as a Buccaneer, notching 120 tackles, which ranked third overall on the team behind only fellow linebackers Barrett Ruud and 10-time Pro Bowler Derrick Brooks.
Ironically, the Bucs were attempting to rest their key starters, or at least play them sparingly, in their final regular season game due to the fact that Tampa Bay had already clinched the NFC South division title and a home playoff game.
Unfortunately, that strategy didn't protect June, who fractured his foot early in the first quarter vs. the Panthers.
Although Tampa Bay's defense held the New York Giants offense to less than 300 yards in the Wild Card playoff contest, the Bucs definitely missed June.
The Bucs signed June with the hopes of him helping to improve Tampa Bay's pass defense. June didn't show up big in the interception column, but he did help improve the Bucs pass defense, which ranked No. 1 overall in the NFL.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning had completed just 56.1 percent of his passes and tossed 20 interceptions during the regular season. However, he managed to complete 20-of-27 (74 percent) of his passes for 185 yards and toss two touchdowns and no interceptions in New York's 24-14 win over Tampa Bay and its No. 2-ranked defense.
Manning and the Giants went on to beat the undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl, but inquiring minds have wondered what happened to June since the injury.
"It's all healed up and I'm ready to go," June told Pewter Report at Tampa Bay's organized team activities this week.
The Buccaneers surprisingly did not place June on injured reserve after he suffered the foot injury. The team thought he could eventually make it back on to the field to play had the Bucs advanced in the playoffs.
Nearly six months later, June still believes he might have been able to play at some point had Tampa Bay's playoff run lasted longer.
"I think ," said June. "Guys play with injuries all of the time. It's just a matter of can you perform? Can you go out there and run? You're never going to be 100 percent. It was just one of those situations where if I could have gone out there and tried to play through a little bit of pain – if it's just a pain issue you have to try to play through it. If it's something where you just can't go then you deal with it accordingly.
"It was really frustrating knowing you can't go out there and compete with the rest of the guys. Win, lose or draw you want to be out there competing. That was the frustrating part of it. Sometimes you can or can't control the wins or losses. The frustrating part was not being able to go."
A few different sources had suggested June was not recovering from his foot injury as quickly as the team had initially hoped.
One website, DraftDaddy.com, even posted the following comment in one of its blogs shortly after the Bucs had drafted Florida State LB Geno Hayes in the sixth round of the 2008 NFL Draft.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had to grab former Florida State linebacker Geno Hayes in round six, according to my sources, because veteran linebacker Cato June had a back surgery done by his own doctor instead of the Bucs team doctor and it went badly. He could be out for all of training camp because it may need to be redone. They found out about this right before day two of the draft, so look for the Bucs to add a vet to secure June's spot in Tampa's Cover 2.
Pewter Report ran that info by Bucs officials and we were told that there was absolutely no validity to that report or any of the other rumors surrounding June this offseason.
June underwent surgery to repair his fractured foot during the offseason. During Tampa Bay's first set of organized team activities, which were held before the 2008 NFL Draft, June spent practice working with trainer Todd Toriscelli on conditioning.
"I had surgery during the offseason," said June. "I did my down time and now I'm just trying to get back in top shape and get back in the swing of things.
"You can't just jump back into things when you're rehabbing an injury. You have to make sure the rest of your body is prepared. The foot is healed now, so you have to make sure the rest of your body is ready to support the foot and be in football shape before you go out there and compete with everybody."
As for suffering any sort of setback, June suggested those rumors were false. The fact that he practiced during both of Tampa Bay's OTAs this week supports the notion that June will be 100 percent ready to go by the time the Bucs report to training camp on July 25.
"Every injury is different and they have a certain protocol for injuries in terms of rehabbing them," said June. "I'm pretty much on pace. The pace is that I'll be ready [for training camp]. I'm pretty much on pace. I feel good. I'm not in any type of pain and there's no swelling or anything like that. In that sense, I'm right on pace."
For more on June, view Pewter Report reporter/video journalist Emily Gagnon's latest report, which includes an interview with June. View the video by clicking here.
Here are a few other tidbits regarding Tampa Bay's linebackers to hold you off until the next Pewter Insider article.
• Some Bucs fans have asked Pewter Report if Tampa Bay has considered moving Cato June over from the strongside to the weakside this year and having Derrick Brooks, 35, over to the strong side. While some believe June could eventually succeed Brooks when he decides to call it a career, team officials have told Pewter Report that the Buccaneers are not considering making that type of move this year.
• Tampa Bay has 12 linebackers on its offseason roster. One player that will have to impress this offseason in order to stick around is Ryan Nece, who carries a $1.1 million base salary and has two years remaining on his contract with the Bucs. Nece notched 16 special teams tackles last year, but he struggled with the transition from strongside linebacker to middle linebacker and lost his starting job to Cato June last year. Nece, 29, does a lot of work with charities and organizations in the Tampa Bay area and is one of the nicest guys on the Bucs roster. However, with the Bucs investing draft picks in Quincy Black, Adam Hayward and Geno Hayes, and signing June, Teddy Lehman and Matt McCoy over the last two years, it appears as though Nece's days with the Buccaneers could be numbered.
• The media was permitted to watch just 40 minutes of each of Tampa Bay's three rookie mini-camp practices two weeks ago. Unfortunately, about 10 minutes were devoted to stretching. While we couldn't see everything, sources tell Pewter Report that one player that really stood out during the rookie mini-camp was Florida State linebacker Geno Hayes, the Bucs' sixth-round draft pick. Hayes, an early-entry junior, just happens to be the only Bucs linebacker that is eligible for the practice squad, but he might not wind up there. One source went as far as telling Pewter Report that it would be a "surprise" if Hayes didn't make Tampa Bay's 53-man roster this season. Last year, team sources told Pewter Report that rookie linebackers Quincy Black and Adam Hayward impressed during rookie mini-camp. They both made the active roster as rookies. History could repeat itself with Hayes.
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