The contract dispute between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and starting left tackle Donald Penn remains at a stand still. Penn, a restricted free agent, is seeking a long-term contract and does not want to play under a one-year tender worth just over $3 million that he has yet to sign. Although he held out of Tampa Bay’s organized team activities and mandatory mini-camp, Penn finally took the football field – sort of.
On Saturday, July 17 with the help of several current and former NFL players Penn held his first charity youth football camp in southern California. Holding a football clinic has been a dream of Penn’s and he is hoping to turn it into a yearly event.
“I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a while,” Penn said. “I’m finally in a position where I could do a charity camp. This is something I’ve wanted to do for years. I’m going to try to make it bigger and bigger every year. We had about 180 kids out there and everything was free for them. We had about seven NFL guys out there and we fed them after the camp was over. It was a great turnout. I think the campers really appreciated it.
“I had Warren Sapp, Tanard Jackson and Josh Johnson there from the Bucs and some other NFL players. I’ve worked a couple other players camps around the league and I’ve always wanted to do my own. When I was growing up, there was no camp staffed by NFL players around my area, especially camps that were free. I went to the USC and UCLA camps in high school, but I had to pay for those. My camp is free for the kids and I thought that would be really appreciated.”
The camp was held in Penn’s hometown at his former high school. Penn, a letterman in football and basketball while in high school, wanted to make a contribution to the kids in his community and says the entire event surpassed his expectations.
“I did it at my old high school – St. Bernard’s in Playa Del Ray,” Penn said. “I wanted to give back to the place where my whole career started. It was even better than I thought it was going to be. You could tell by looking at the kids how much they appreciated the camp. Everybody said thank you and we signed a bunch of autographs. I was really appreciative of all of the NFL guys that showed up. Warren Sapp came out with no problems. I only had to ask him was once.”
During the four-hour camp, Penn was able to chat with Sapp and came away with some good advice from the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year while they were teaching the kids football fundamentals.
“Warren was great with the kids,” Penn said. “He was running around with them so much that his shirt was drenched with sweat by the end of the camp. “He was cracking jokes about the old One Buc facility where he had to work out at and saying how the new place was a five-star hotel and he used to work in the two-star hotel. He gave me some advice that I am going to take to heart. The main thing I took from him was Warren saying that a lot of stuff is out of my control and that I need to take care of what I control. He told me he noticed that I lost a lot of weight and that I looked great.”
Penn, 27, has been working hard during the offseason to lose weight and is said to be close to 40 pounds lighter than he was at the end of last year when he weighed over 360 pounds.
The Utah State product has started 44 straight games since taking over the starting left tackle job in 2007. He was entered the league as an undrafted free agent with Minnesota in 2006 and was signed off the Vikings’ practice squad by the Bucs that year. He became a starter at left tackle in 2007 when Luke Petitgout was lost for the season.
Even though he has not signed a contract with the Bucs yet, Penn is still looking forward to the upcoming season and envisions reporting to the team at some point either before or during the 2010 season.
“I’m very excited about this season and I can’t wait to get everything started,” Penn said. “This organization did a great job in the draft and I’m very excited to hit the field – whenever that time comes.”