On October 14, Bucs rookie defensive end Kyle Moore returned to practice following surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Although he was medically cleared to play the last two games against Carolina and New England, Moore was inactive for both contests and is still awaiting his first taste of live action in an NFL regular season game.
After a promising offseason and preseason in which he was a starting defensive tackle in the Bucs’ nickel rush “Go” package in addition to backing up Jimmy Wilkerson at left end, Tampa Bay’s fourth-round pick finds himself behind newcomers Tim Crowder and Michael Bennett, and he isn’t too happy about it.
“I guess the injury pretty much [pushed] me back to the back of the depth chart,” Moore said. “I don’t know how that happened, but here I am at the back of the depth chart. I’m just waiting for my time. I’m anxious. They didn’t earn my position. They got it by default. That’s the fact of the matter. They didn’t take my position. It got taken from me [with the injury]. I’m trying to get back into it with practice, practice and more practice. I’ve got fresh legs. Everybody else has played six games before I came back.”
Moore had a very productive preseason and applied pressure to the quarterback from both the left defensive end position in the regular defense and the defensive tackle spot in obvious pass rush situations. The USC product posted six tackles, four quarterback pressures, three tackles for loss, two sacks and one forced fumble. Moore was tied for the team lead in tackles for loss and sacks in the preseason, and ranked second on the Bucs defense in quarterback pressures.
A groin injury forced him to miss the first two games, and upon Moore’s return to practice on September 23, he discovered that the knee pain he experienced was a torn meniscus that required surgery. He said that he has experienced no pain in practice and has been healthy enough to play on Sundays since he returned to action nearly a month ago.
“[My knee] is pretty close,” Moore said. “I’m working on my flexibility. My leg gets heavy on me sometimes when we have real long practices. Towards the end of the week, my legs come alive again and get back to normal. Right now my knee is like 95 percent. It’s definitely between 90 and 100 percent. There’s no pain. It just gets tight and sore on me sometimes, but that’s what is going to happen when you get out of surgery and come back as quick as I did. I’ll be alright.”
Moore is determined to work his way up the depth chart and earn the right to be active on game days. He realizes that will only come through hard work in practice.
“I just come out here to practice and try to expose a lot of the first-team guys and beat those guys on a regular basis every day that I come out,” Moore said. “Eventually, if I keep practicing hard against these guys they’ve got to put me out there. I’ve been doing that the past three weeks. My time will come eventually. I don’t know when, but I will keep working hard at both sides and working hard on defense and working hard on that scout stuff and hopefully they will give me my chance. Going against these guys on the scout team –
Penn and Trueblood – I’m just working on technique. If I keep doing it against them, it’s going to translate in the games.”
Moore might be going a little too hard for head coach Raheem Morris’ liking in practice lately. Last week prior to the team’s four-day vacation during the bye week, Morris indicated that there was a fracas in Thursday’s practice.
“A little padded work, a little physical play today,” Morris said last Thursday. “Some of it was too physical. It was good, though. It was good. A little spirited practice right before they go get a little break.”
As it turns out, Moore was the instigator in a couple shoving matches with starting center Jeff Faine. Moore was a little too physical in his pass rushing during practice and Faine took exception on two occasions.
“[Faine] came in a little late,” Moore said. “I’m not going to talk bad about him. It was uncalled for, though. I think I pushed Jerramy Stevens into the quarterback and he came out of nowhere late – real late. Then I pushed Trueblood into the quarterback – both times it was with [Josh] Freeman at quarterback. I did the same thing to Trueblood and [Faine] came real late again. But it’s practice and that’s what Faine does.
“I’m going to keep going hard. That’s what we did at USC. We practiced hard. If they don’t want to go hard, I’m going to go hard anyways. There’s nothing that’s going to change for me.”
After two incidents where Freeman was shoved last Thursday, Moore was told by Morris to back off his overly aggressive play.
“He told me to lay off him,” Moore said. “He said that once I beat him he wants me to back up off him. But their momentum was going back so far that I couldn’t stop them anyways. He told me to back up off them.”
If Moore is driving the likes of Trueblood and Stevens back into the quarterback, and the Bucs have an obvious need for pass rushers, shouldn’t the rookie get a look on Sunday?
“Kyle fought the injuries early, and the last two weeks he’s been really healthy. It’s really been hard for me to keep a helmet off him,” Morris said. “He’s pushing my buttons every week and he’ll push it again this week. Hopefully this is the week. His practice habits and his practice demeanor let’s me know he wants to go out and put a helmet on. He’s really grown up over the course of the time we’ve been together. It’s been fun. He’s a guy kind of like Freeman that has been in the lab. He had the problem with the injury, so he’s a little behind the eight ball because of that. He’s a little bit behind the eight ball and talking about injuries to you guys, but now he’s gotten over that and he’s practicing as hard as he can go. I think he’s ready.”
Bucs defensive coordinator Jim Bates said that since his return from injury on October 14, Moore has picked up his practice performance.
“The last two weeks have been his best two weeks of practice,” said Bates. “He’s really matured as far as practicing like a pro is supposed to practice. As soon as we see the consistency there we’re going to try to get him on the field. But he’s really improved. It’s a growing process for all the rookies, but he’s made big leaps from the time he was injured to now.”
Morris admitted that he nearly made Moore active for the Patriots contest in London after reviewing practice footage the night before the game.
“I sat in my room all night with my D-line coach and we looked at Michael Bennett and we looked at Kyle Moore,” Morris said. “We watched them in practice. We watched them both on scout team and we watched them both on defense. It was tough. I wanted to give them both a helmet, but I couldn’t. We went with Bennett because he had the mass amount of reps that week in practice on defense. I got them both together and I told them that exact same message – along with Dre Moore. Just to give you some good news about Dre. As I was watching those two, I had to go grab Dre and say, ‘Hey Dre, I watched these two to put a helmet on one of the two, but you jumped into the picture as well. So you’ve got to continue to practice like that too so I can feel good about putting a helmet on you when I get the opportunity to.’ I have been really impressed with those three young guys.”
There appears to be a three-way fight for the final active roster spot on game days. Perhaps Kyle Moore’s fight with Faine last week, coupled with a strong week of practice, will give him the edge necessary to suit up against Green Bay this Sunday.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com