The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the practice fields at One Buccaneer Place Wednesday to conduct their second of 14 organized team activities this offseason.
The OTAs are voluntary, but the Bucs have been fairly pleased with the turnout and participation.
Among the players participating at One Buccaneer Place are quarterback Jeff Garcia, tackle Luke Petitgout, defensive lineman Kevin Carter, defensive end Patrick Chukwurah, linebacker Cato June and fullback B.J. Askew, all of whom signed with the Buccaneers this offseason.
Although the Bucs have just two OTAs under their belt, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden has been pleased with what he’s seen so far.
“It’s a different football team right now,” said Gruden. “Some guys that were hurt last year and didn’t play are playing now. There are some new veteran players – Garcia, Petitgout, Carter, Askew and June. We’ve added some players and we have some guys that didn’t play last year because they were hurt. I also see some of the younger guys getting better. Right now we’re seeing where we are and what we have before we bunker down and get ready for the draft.”
At least two players have not been participating in Tampa Bay’s OTAs – cornerback Brian Kelly and linebacker Shelton Quarles.
Some believe Kelly is unhappy with his current contract, which calls for him to have a salary cap value of over $4 million in 2007 and has two years remaining on it. However, Kelly lives in California and has missed some OTAs in previous years.
Quarles, 35, is undergoing tests to determine whether he’s healthy enough to continue to play football. It is unclear what injury or injuries Quarles has had evaluated. Just as unclear is Quarles’ future with the team, which according to Gruden is unknown.
“I can’t really update Shelton’s situation other than we are going to continue to look into his future,” said Gruden. “He’s a great player and one of the all-time Buccaneers. He’s going to make that decision on his own, and certainly with the help of the doctors and the people that give him the information he needs to make a decision.”
Quarles is due a $1 million roster bonus on May 1. He is scheduled to have a $4.075 million salary cap value in 2007. The Bucs can free up approximately $3 million by releasing him or if he decides to retire.
Should Quarles not return, 2005 second-round draft pick, linebacker Barrett Ruud, would take over as the team’s starting middle linebacker.
Rice On The MendTampa Bay defensive end Simeon Rice has not been on the practice field for the team’s OTAs this week, but he is busy rehabilitating the shoulder injury that ended his 2006 season prematurely and required surgery.
“Simeon is working in the meeting rooms right now while he continues his rehab,” said Gruden. “He’s looking good. He’s light on his feet and he’s running with the training staff. We’re hoping to have him back in the next wave of OTAs.”
Rice, 33, was placed on injured reserve in late November after recording just two sacks and struggling to play through a shoulder ailment.
The three-time Pro Bowler has notched 121 career sacks, 69.5 of which have come since he joined the Buccaneers in 2001.
Rice is the highest-paid player on Tampa Bay’s roster, and he’s scheduled to have a $10.450 million cap value in 2007. He also needs just nine sacks to break Hall of Famer Lee Roy’s Selmon’s franchise sack record of 78.
Bucs Revamping Offensive LineIt’s still early, and nothing is permanent, but Tampa Bay has already made some notable changes to its offensive line.
The Bucs have newcomer Luke Petitgout lining up at left tackle in practice.
Last year’s starting left tackle, Anthony Davis, has moved inside to play left guard in place of injured G Dan Buenning.
Although he is still recovering from a torn ACL he suffered on Thanksgiving Day, Buenning has been participating in 7-on-7 drills, and he’s lining up at center, not guard.
“We’re looking at a lot of things right now,” said Gruden. “Right now Luke Petitgout is taking a lot of snaps at left tackle. We’re looking at Anthony Davis as a left guard. That doesn’t mean that’s the way it’s going to be. That’s the way it looks right now.”
The Bucs are confident Buenning will be 100 percent healthy by the time the team reports to training camp on July 26.
“He’ll be ready for training camp,” Gruden said of Buenning. “He won’t be able to take any reps until later in spring or potentially training camp.”
Plummer Still MIATampa Bay quarterback Jake Plummer, who was acquired in a trade with the Denver Broncos in March, is still a no-show at One Buccaneer Place.
Plummer, 32, has stated on more than one occasion that he plans to retire from the NFL. However, he still has not submitted his retirement paperwork to the league, which has some, including the Bucs, hopeful that Plummer will have a change of heart and report to work with the Bucs by the time training camp rolls around in July.
If Plummer doesn’t report to training camp, Tampa Bay could attempt to go after as much as $7 million in bonuses that he received while playing in Denver.
The Bucs currently have four quarterbacks – Jeff Garcia, Chris Simms, Bruce Gradkowski and Luke McCown – participating in OTAs. Plummer is semi-retired and QB Bruce Eugene is playing in NFL Europe.
As of Wednesday, there was no new news regarding Plummer’s situation with the Bucs.
“I don’t have any update on him except for we’d like to have him in here as soon as possible,” Gruden said of Plummer. “We’ll remain hopeful that that happens. In the time being, we have plenty of work to do with the quarterbacks we have.”
In a related note, Garcia has switched jersey numbers. He was seen sporting jersey No. 7 at practice on Wednesday. That jersey was previously worn by Gradkowski, who is now wearing No. 5.
Tampa Bay’s quarterbacks are expected to talk with the media on Thursday.
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