Jeff Carlson is a regular contributor to PewterReport.com. In his regular columns, Carlson will share expert analysis and insight regarding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and NFL based on his previous playing experience with the Bucs and in the league.
Carlson played quarterback in the NFL from 1990-92. He spent two seasons (1990-91) with the Bucs and one season (1992) with the New England Patriots. The former Weber State signal caller originally entered the NFL as a fourth-round pick with the Los Angeles Rams.
Since his NFL playing career ended, Carlson has remained active and busy in the Tampa Bay area by heading up America's Best Quarterback, which is a clinic that trains quarterbacks privately or in groups in Tampa year round. To inquire about America's Best Quarterback, visit AmericasBestQB.com, e-mail
or call 813-789-9255.
In addition to his work with America's Best Quarterback, Carlson is a regular host on Bright House Sports Network, which is PewterReport.com's television partner.
Heading into training camp the most pressing issue for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has been the situation of left oes not want to have to play on another one-year contract like he did in 2009. Penn wants a long-term contract from the Bucs, and has skipped all of the offseason workouts thus far. Right now, Penn could be a training camp holdout.
I honestly feel that Donald Penn's missing OTAs (organized team activites) and the mandatory mini-camp is not that big of a deal. Last year it wasn't for linebacker Barrett Ruud, and for an experienced NFL player it isn't crucial to be there. The only issue that is different with Donald Penn is his weight and how hard is he working in the offseason. The reports are that he has dropped a lot of weight, and he has to be on guard about adding too much weight.
I don't put too much in a veteran player missing the OTAs as hurting the team too much. Actually, you can make the counter-argument that it benefits the team due to the preparation it gives the guys behind him. It can help the team to develop a swing tackle with a guy that can play both the left and the right. In this case it has helped develop a backup tackle, Demar Dotson, with more reps and that can benefit the offensive line over time. If there is an injury during the season to one of the starters, Dotson will be a better replacement due to the development he's been able to make this offseason. Plus I don't think that Donald Penn is becoming less of a football player by missing the OTAs. I don't think it is hurting the team in practice by him not being there, and it may even help the team in the long-run by developing depth at the tackle position.
I'm all about the team being together and working together, but in the NFL it is about taking care of yourself and getting your situation taken care of. Derrick Brooks held out of training camp. All the players understand there is a business side to their careers and Donald Penn has to do what is best for that.
Now if Penn is a holdout in training camp that is a totally different story. It is common for players that holdout to get injured when they do show up later for training camp. There is a lot of stories like that where players holdout, get paid, and within the first week they tweak something because there bodies aren't used to those practices. That happened to the Bengals' Andre Smith last year.
Coaching staffs always start out lighter over the first few sessions of camp and build the intensity of the practices within a few days. Coming into the middle of that is difficult physically because players aren't training the same way. You can try and imitate it on your own, but its' not the same. Training camp is a completely different animal than other offseason training or training on your own.
Penn holding out of training camp is a big worry for the offensive line coach, offensive coordinator and head coach. But his presence is not required for a quarterback to get prepared for the season. The quarterback's job once the ball is snapped is not to be concerned if the tackle is going to be blocking his man or not. The quarterback's concentration has to be on what the play is, and what the defense is trying to do to you.
You have to have confidence in whoever the guy is that, he is blocking who he is supposed to be blocking. If you get hit 10 times by one guy than you're going to be thinking about it. Hopefully, the coordinator is calling different plays at that point if your left tackle can't block, but there is not a special relationship between a quarterback and non-center offensive linemen.
With a receiver you can develop communication through winks, and nods, and you're on the same page about what you're seeing and thinking the same thing together. With your offensive linemen, you're focus better not be thinking the guy that's rushing you. That is all feel and movement based on how the pocket feels. You're thinking should be about the defensive pass coverage, who is coming open, and what to do with the ball.
If you think your left tackle, in this case Donald Penn, is the best and never gets beat by his man, subconsciously that might give you more confidence standing in the pocket.
I think Donald Penn has earned the long-term commitment from the Buccaneers and they should sign him to a lucrative contract extension. I think the Bucs should protect themselves and work into the contract strict language that ensures his weight stays under control and have limitations on that. I think he's a player that they should have a long-term deal with to lock-up a good backside protector for Josh Freeman.
I'm a believer in competition at all positions, and I think that a player like left guard Jeremy Zuttah should face competition for his starting spot. I think that only makes everybody better. For the most part all across the NFL you have players penciled in as the starter, but I believe in competition because it raises people's game. It is just human nature if you think you have it you start to slack.
Human nature for a lot of players is if ‘I'm the starter than I won't run some extra 100 yard sprints. I won't lift weights as much.' I like competition at pretty much all positions in a generalized sense, especially in the offensive and defensive line where you are knocking heads every day. That is a tough, tough business. Competition is good to get the most out of players.
Depending on the makeup of the backups, if you have a guy that is showing up and playing strong and he plays the same position as even an established guy like Jeff Faine or Davin Joseph, then you start letting the veteran know that hey this guy is creeping up on you. That generates competition and provides some extra motivation for veterans that might need it. You don't threaten guys that they are going to lose their position all the time, but as many competitive battles that you can put out there it is good for your football team.
By Jeff Carlson as told to Pewter Report Editor-in-Chief Charlie Campbell.