The 3-1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers have an important game in Indianapolis against the 4-0 Colts on Sunday, but this contest might be a little bigger for one particular player – linebacker Cato June.
June, who signed a three-year contract with Tampa Bay during the offseason, spent four years (2003-06) playing for Indianapolis before becoming an unrestricted free agent in March.
The former sixth-round draft pick out of Michigan started 45 of the 56 career games he played for Indianapolis and helped the Colts win the Super Bowl in February by notching a career-high 162 tackles and three interceptions in 2006.
While he still remembers the lack of interest Indianapolis showed in terms of re-signing him during the offseason, June understands how that is just part of the business side of the NFL.
“I don’t think one situation is better than the other,” June said of playing for Indianapolis and Tampa Bay. “It’s free agency, it is part of football. For whatever reason I didn’t stay in Indy [and] I am a Buc now. I am happy to be here, it has been a great situation for me, great defense [and] great defenders around me. I just fit in well. It is just about going out there each week, getting better, learning from the greats that we have on defense [and] learning from our great coaching staff. That is the thing, just trying to improve week-to-week.”
June is more focused on stopping Indianapolis’ potent offense, which ranks 3rd overall in the NFL, than he is in showing the Colts what they lost when they allowed him to sign with Tampa Bay in free agency. But he can accomplish both with a strong effort from Tampa Bay’s defense, which currently ranks 5th overall, on Sunday.
“It will be fun. It is always good to play top teams,” said June. “They are the number one offense, the defending champions. It will be fun to go back into the dome, and play the number one offense.”
The 6-foot, 227-pound June, who is the team’s starting strongside linebacker, has already made his impact felt in Tampa Bay by notching 31 tackles, one interception and one pass defensed while helping the Bucs defense return to the top 10 this week for the first time since 2005.
One player June and the Bucs are focused on limiting in terms of production is his former teammate — quarterback Peyton Manning, who has completed 67.2 percent of his passes for 1,066 yards and tossed eight touchdowns and just one interception this season.
Indianapolis is tough to beat at home. June knows better than anyone that you must limit Manning’s production in order to have a chance of escaping the RCA Dome with a rare win over the Colts.
“He keeps you off balance,” June said of Manning. “He is so good at getting his offense in the right look, the right formation for the particular defense. He makes accurate throws; he doesn’t make mistakes with the football. They are not careless with the football so that makes it difficult. As a defense you might want to try to do too much to overcompensate, and that is when they hit you with the big play.”
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