Defensive tackle Oliver Gibson participated in his first practice as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer on Sunday. According to Gibson, who opted to sign with Buffalo last March instead of Tampa Bay, this day was long overdue.

“This is where I wanted to be,” Gibson said. “I love the way these guys play football. They’re fast, I’ve always wanted to be on a really fast defense. Plus I want to win a lot of games and I know these guys are gonna do it. They’re a talented bunch.”

Gibson, 32, is talented, too. The 6-foot-2, 315-pound Gibson is regarded as a run stuffer, which is something the Bucs could use at the nose tackle position since both Cincinnati and Jacksonville had success running the ball up the gut of Tampa Bay’s defense.

The Bucs signed Darrell Russell last spring and hoped he would bring a unique combination of size and speed to the nose tackle position, but a positive test for alcohol consumption violated his probation with the NFL and convinced the Bucs to release him before he was eventually suspended.

Tampa Bay was also interested in inking DT Dana Stubblefield, but he decided to sign with New England instead. That left the Bucs with 6-foot, 270-pound Chartric Darby as the starting nose tackle. While the Bucs are comfortable with Darby being in the starting lineup, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin likes the idea of having a big, quick guy to possibly rotate at with Darby at the nose tackle (one-technique) position.

That’s a role Gibson, who has started 57 of the 133 games he’s played in during his nine-year career, is willing to embrace.

“I’m another link in the chain,” said Gibson. “I am a quick speed, power guy. I’m just trying to keep the standard up here. The standard has been set by a lot of players before me. So, I’m a link in the chain and not really a big-talk guy.”

But just because he has the attributes the Bucs are looking for in a nose tackle doesn’t mean Gibson is guaranteed a 53-man roster spot this season.

“For the first day he fit in pretty good,” said Kiffin. “He has some experience. He’s played the nose tackle spot in a similar scheme. He’s an interesting guy and I think it’s important that we take a look at him and see how good he is. Whether he upgrades us or not, he needs to be a pretty good player because we have some pretty good lineman up front.”

Gibson knows he’ll have to work hard and digest Tampa Bay’s defensive scheme in order to earn a roster spot and playing time since he’s facing stiff competition from the likes of Darby, Anthony McFarland, Ellis Wyms, DeVone Claybrooks and Damian Gregory.

“I’m in Tampa now,” said Gibson. “Buffalo’s just a mere memory. I love playing for Coach Gruden, they get it. Mac, I always wanted to play next to him. So, you know, I’m just trying to fall and get in where I fit in. They’ve got a good rotation here and it’s going to be a fight to get on the field. These guys are all hungry and they all get it so I’m just looking forward to that.”

Although he’s never played in Tampa Bay’s 4-3, Cover 2 defensive scheme, he did play in a similar one-gap scheme with Cincinnati (1999-2003). He’s only been in the system for a day, but Gibson said Tampa Bay’s scheme fits what he does well.

“To be honest with you, I played one gap football for a couple of years in Cincinnati,” said Gibson. “But basically, this is football, this is attacking, defensive football. They play one gap, they get it, they disrupt, they get after the passer, they use pass rush moves, and they read the run — on the run. Yeah, familiarity being I know how to attack and play football.”

While he’s regarded as a run stuffer, Gibson, who has recorded 262 career tackles and 17.5 sacks, said he also has the speed and desire to get after the quarterback.

“The first day I got in here, Coach said to put on another pair of shoes. I stop the run, I pride myself on that. That’s defensive football, if you want to win, you’ve got to stop the run. I’m trying to attack like these guys. I’m trying to pass rush. A lot of great rushers were in here before, including one who I am trying to get my number from.”

Gibson sported jersey No. 73 in practice Sunday, but he’s attempting to get No. 99, which was former Bucs DT Warren Sapp’s jersey number and is the number Gibson has worn throughout his entire NFL career.

After watching Tampa Bay’s backup quarterbacks complete just 15-of-30 (50 percent) pass attempts against Jacksonville on Friday night, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said Sunday that he’s still trying to decide whether Chris Simms or Brian Griese will serve as starting QB Brad Johnson’s backup on Saturday night vs. the Miami Dolphins. However, both signal callers will definitely see plenty of playing time.

“No, I’ll decide that later,” Gruden said. “I’ll tell you that we took a step back at that position. I’m not losing confidence in either one of the quarterbacks, but we’ve got to do a better job in the pocket. We’ve got to keep the ball in a throwing position, we’ve got to slide, we’ve got to make plays within the confines of the pocket. We got away from that a little bit, but Chris didn’t play a snap last season and it’s a lot different in 7-on-7 than it is with Jaguars running all over the field. Brian Griese had some balls tipped, had a ball slip out of his hand and did not play to his capabilities, but they’re both going to play a lot against Miami. It’s far from settled at that position.”

All 32 NFL teams will be required to cut down their rosters to a maximum of 65 players by Aug. 31, which will be just three days after Tampa Bay hosts Miami in its third preseason contest. That said, the Bucs’ upcoming exhibition has a lot riding on it, especially for the players trying to make the team.

“We’ve got some tough cut-downs coming,” said Bucs head coach Jon Gruden. “We’d like to see more from Mark Jones as a punt returner; he’s not getting a lot of opportunities. We’ve got to get some three-and-outs on defense, make them punt right away and see what he can do as a fielder and a return man. Defensively, third-and-long has been a problem for us. We’ve got to get off the field on third-and-long. Offensively, you’ve got to get started. We did so in the first game but we did not play well against Jacksonville. We had some good looks, had some good opportunities, but we’ve got to step up. We’ve got to play much better as an offensive football team against Miami, and that’s not going to be easy because they’re still the Dolphins on defense.”

Gruden will have some help when it comes to making some tough decisions next week.

‘Yeah, it’s pretty hard,” said Gruden. “There’s no question. Fortunately, Doug Williams, Bruce Allen and the front office guys will help make those decisions. But as a coach you want to do the best you can to help these guys make the team. You want to wear yourself out. That’s why I’m really proud of our staff. You see some of these young guys come in, like Anthony Davis, like Marcus Knight and Frank Murphy, Earnest Graham, and really make some splash plays and put themselves on the threshold of making this football team. We’re excited about that. We’ve got a lot of assistance to help us make the tough decisions.”

After Sunday afternoon’s practice, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden gave an injury update.

“Fortunately for us, we don’t have a lot of injuries that appear to be significant enough to hold guys out of regular season time,” said Gruden. “We’re hoping to get Derrick Deese back. As I said earlier, Matt Stinchcomb came back; Derrick Brooks is on the horizon; Jeff Gooch returned; Charles Lee is knocking on the door; Joe Jurevicius is improving. But we do have a lot of guys who are unable to go right now, and that is a concern but that is part of the problem that we’re dealing with.”

Guard Matt O’Dwyer, who was projected to start at left guard before he suffered a torn pectoral muscle while weight-lifting this summer, won’t be ready to return when the regular season starts and there’s still a chance he won’t play this season.

“He’s on PUP [physically-unable-to-perform list],” said Gruden. “He’s got a torn pec muscle. He’s a ways away from being able to play, but maybe by midseason that will be an option for us to activate him and have him ready to play if he’s physically ready to go.”

Wide receiver Joe Jurevicius is said to be making progress after undergoing back surgery to repair a herniated disc in August, but a timetable for his return has not been set.

“He’s getting better,” said Gruden. “He’s starting to move around. His mobility is slowly but surely coming back. I think he’s healed enough where he can move around and begin the process of running and getting in and out of cuts. He’s upbeat, he’s optimistic about his return. He’s got a ways to go but he is showing signs of progress.

“I don’t have a timetable with him. I’ve been watching for Groundhog Day every day, you know what I mean? As soon he’s ready I’ll let you know, but he’s a ways away yet.”

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