Buccaneers middle linebacker Barrett Ruud showed up for training camp, but is he a happy camper?
Ruud missed all of the team’s OTAs to show general manager Mark Dominik that he is displeased with the fact that he has not received a contract extension yet. Ruud is entering the final year of his rookie contract, which will pay him $1.6 million in 2009, but the dilemma over a new deal centers around the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
If the NFL and the NFL Players Association extend the current CBA, which is set to expire after the 2009 season, Ruud becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2010. If the CBA does not get extended and 2010 becomes an uncapped year, Ruud will not be eligible for unrestricted free agency until he has six years in the NFL.
Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White is in the same boat Ruud is with his contract status and is choosing to hold out. Although not happy that negotiations on a new contract have been painfully slow, Ruud is in camp and is putting contract talk off right now.
“Basically I’ve had no thoughts about that,” said Ruud. “I’ve come to terms with it myself, and am just about football right now. I know I have one year left, and I’m excited. I think the best thing for me and the team is to have a great year. If I play well individually, and the team plays well, only good things will happen.
“It was kind of frustrating at times during the offseason. Now honestly I feel pretty good, and am just trying to get better. One good thing about training camp is you get into that zombie world and don’t think about anything else other than football. In that case, it is somewhat refreshing. In other ways, it is still training camp and you’re tired, but it is kind of nice to have a clear mind, I guess.”
Ruud’s presence in camp is important on two fronts. The first is being able to learn the new defensive scheme and be on the same page as his teammates after missing over a dozen OTA workouts this summer.
Brooks sent Ruud a text with some advice, and Ruud said he thinks about Brooks quite a bit.
“What is nice is that when you start training camp again it is kind of a review session,” Ruud said. “You get to freshen up and you have two weeks before the preseason games. The two-a-day practices are a grind, but for me right now I need them. I need training camp right now because I have to learn Jim’s system inside and out, and I need every practice leading up to that first preseason game and take it into the season.”
The second reason is Ruud will be counted on to step up and be a leader this year, especially with the offseason departure of future Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks, who texted Ruud on the eve of training camp with some words of encouragement.
“The Don actually texted me,” Ruud said. “What was funny was that our trainer, Todd Toriscelli, was saying how there are heat warnings and how Derrick used to wear rubber suits under his pads and Todd said he didn’t recommend anyone wearing long sleeves. But the Don taught me well so I have to suffer in this heat. I still think of Derrick quite a bit.”
Ruud said that he will attempt to fill the leadership void created by Brooks’ departure, but that he won’t be someone he’s not.
“I’m going to do the same things I’ve always done. I’m just going to try and do them better,” said Ruud. “I lead by example. As soon as the huddle starts it is my defense then. I have to make all the calls and organize everything. What I say goes. After that I’m still not a big talker in the locker room and in team meetings, but I do take a lot of pride that when we step on the field it is my defense.”