Rookie quarterback Josh Johnson probably won't take too many reps during the 2008 regular season, but he took his fair share of them at One Buccaneer Place on Friday at the team's first of three rookie mini-camp practices.
Johnson, who joined the Bucs as a fifth-round draft pick out of San Diego last weekend, was excited to hit the field on Friday.
"It was great getting back out on the field today," said Johnson. "Basically being out here with a bunch of new guys we've never played with and we're all new to this team and we're all trying to execute. We had a couple of mess-ups, but we had a pretty good day overall."
It was a long day for Johnson and the players on the field Friday, and it certainly won't get any easier as they're scheduled to practice two hours each day on Saturday and Sunday as well.
How did Johnson manage to make it through his first day of practice as a Buc?
"You just have to stay mentally focused," said Johnson. "Today was a long day. We've been up since 6:00 a.m. and we haven't received any breaks. There's something going on every minute. There's not a lot of downtime. You have to stay mentally focused."
The Buccaneers currently have seven quarterbacks on their roster, but only two signal callers – Johnson and tryout QB Sam Keller from Nebraska — participated in Friday's practice.
That meant having Bucs head coach Jon Gruden's eye on him early and often. But Johnson said he didn't mind Gruden's attention or intensity.
"Coach Gruden is awesome. He's intense, but I like coaches like that," said Johnson. "That makes you get better when you've got somebody pushing you like that."
Johnson thrived in San Diego's version of the West Coast offense, completing 68 percent of his passes for 9,699 yards and tossing 113 touchdowns and 15 interceptions as a three-year starter.
That familiarity seems to be helping Johnson digest Gruden's complex version of the West Coast offense.
"it is pretty difficult, but at the same time it's how you look at the playbook," said Johnson. "There are a lot of things going on at one time. It's making sense right now. So far so good."
One of the things that helped Johnson on the practice field on Friday was the presence of one of his former teammates, wide receiver Wes Doyle, who is one of 38 tryout players for the Bucs this weekend.
"That helped out a lot because I know how Wes runs routes," said Johnson. "Every time I threw to Wes there was a real comfort level there because I used to throw to him every day. It will eventually be like that with all of the receivers here."
One of the receivers Johnson plans to develop great chemistry with is Tampa Bay's second-round draft pick, WR Dexter Jackson from Appalachian State.
It didn't take long for Johnson to notice Jackson's speed on the practice field on Friday.
"He's fast," Johnson said of Jackson. "He's got great hands and I watched him play at the East-West Shrine Game. He's a special player."
As a senior, Johnson completed 68.4 percent of his passes for 2,988 yards and tossed 43 touchdowns and just one interception. While his interception total was quite impressive, Johnson made it clear Friday that he's not living in the past and is focused on his future in Tampa Bay.
"That was a great thing, but it's over now," Johnson said of throwing just one interception as a senior.
The 6-foot-2, 213-pound Johnson mastered San Diego's version of the West Coast offense, but he knows he has a long way to go in terms of learning Gruden's playbook and getting acclimated to life in the NFL.
He has already made plans with friends back in San Diego to get together as early and often as possible between now and Tampa Bay's organized team activities, which will be held later this month, to help Johnson practice and run the plays he's in the process of learning this weekend.
"I want to come away from this weekend making a good impression on the coaches," said Johnson. "I want to take the coaching, work hard and execute, and show my teammates that I can be a good leader.
"I just want to learn as much as I can from everybody and when my opportunity comes just go out there and make the most of it."
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