Barrett Ruud had a distinct advantage the last two seasons with the opportunity of playing behind veteran middle linebacker Shelton Quarles. Quarles took Ruud under his wing during 2005 and 2006 and showed him everything from how to play the middle linebacker position to how to live off the field as an NFL player. Those lessons did not go unnoticed by Ruud, who now gets his shot as a starter at middle linebacker in the Bucs defense.

Ruud has racked up a total of 66 tackles in the past two seasons, starting five of the 32 games he has suited up for the Bucs. Ruud’s main objective the last two seasons has been to not make a mistake during his limited playing time backing up Quarles. He normally made a routine check to the sidelines to see if he was staying in or coming out. He doesn’t have to do that anymore.

“I actually feel a lot more comfortable. I think the thing last year was I was always in a mindset to not screw things up,” Ruud said. “You are in here, but you are not in here all the time. You are in here to make sure this defense keeps running, but don’t screw anything up, where as now you are more relaxed — it’s just go play. You are going to make some mistakes, but you aren’t looking over your shoulder to when you are going back. It’s just go out and make plays and not worry about the consequences. Just relax and play normal instead of worrying about, ‘Don’t give up the big play.’”

Ruud got a chance to catch up with Quarles when he made an appearance out at Bucs training camp on Sunday. There was little advice given by the teacher to the student, but more of a how-are-things-going type of conversation.

“He wasn’t really giving me advice, he was just asking me how things were going,” Ruud said of Quarles. “I did hear him, he kept asking what is the call here or the call there so he was still kind of into it himself, but we were just kind of talking about anything and everything.”

Ruud doesn’t set goals to achieve for himself during the season, but just looks to improve his play on a day-to-day basis. Ruud will have to step up this season and fill the void in the middle that was left by Quarles and prove he was worth a second-round pick in 2005. He admits that he learned a lot from Quarles and is much more comfortable with the speed of the game and being the conductor of the Bucs defense.

“Honestly, I felt really comfortable all of last year, but starting the first game was a little bit different playing a whole game,” Ruud said. “I felt pretty good and pretty comfortable, but it’s more of a comfort level now and it’s my job as opposed to just kind of filling in for a little bit. Shelton would come out and I would come in for two or three plays. Then I would be looking over at the sideline, but it’s just a bit more comfortable for me now.”

GRUDEN HAS LITTLE TO SAY
Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden held a short interview after the morning practice on Monday because he had lost his voice.

Gruden, who is known for screaming quite frequently, was hoarse for the majority of the morning practice, but could still be heard calling out plays. Gruden normally loses his voice at some point during training camp every season and occasionally during the season.

Gruden was apologetic about his voice to the contingency of media that covers the Bucs regularly.

“Sorry about my voice, guys,” Gruden said.

STOVALL LEAVES PRACTICE EARLY
Second-year wide receiver Maurice Stovall was seen leaving the field early before the morning practice had concluded. Stovall was battling some dehydration on this the fourth day of practice at training camp. Stovall was taken inside and administered an I.V. to get some fluids during an extremely hot day in Orlando.

However, Stovall returned to the practice field as the Bucs were wrapping up some special teams drills after practice had been concluded. Stovall and Michael Clayton have been taking some extra reps catching the ball after practice.

“He just had to get an I.V., nothing serious,” Gruden said. “He just ran out of some fluids today.”

AFTERNOON PRACTICE CANCELLED
Tampa Bay was scheduled to conduct a special teams practice on Monday afternoon, but it was cancelled due to inclement weather.

The Bucs are scheduled to hold two practices on Tuesday.

INJURY UPDATE
There were a couple of players that seemed to be a little banged up during the morning practice. Nose tackle Ryan Sims was seen hobbling after a play during the drills that pit the offensive and defensive lines against each other. Sims was seen walking off the field with a noticeable limp before the drill was concluded.

Tight end Anthony Becht seemed a little dazed during an 11-on-11 drill and was holding a towel to cover his face after he was poked in the eye by a defensive player.

BUCS SINGLE-GAME TICKETS GO ON SALE AUG. 4
The Bucs still have a limited number of tickets for each of Tampa Bay’s eight regular season home games will go on sale at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 4.

Tickets are limited to six per person per game.

Tickets will only be sold through TicketMaster outlets, TicketMaster via telephone and the Internet. Tickets will not be sold at the Buccaneers Ticket Office or Raymond James Stadium.

To order tickets online, fans may visit www.ticketmaster.com. To order by phone, fans should call TicketMaster “Charge-by-phone” at the following numbers.

Tampa (Hillsborough): (813) 287-8844
St. Petersburg (Pinellas): (727) 898-2100
Central Florida: (407) 839-3900
Lakeland: (863) 682-5300
Fort Myers: (239) 334-3309

Although season tickets for Tampa Bay’s 2007 season are sold out, fans can be placed on the Bucs season ticket waiting list by calling (813) 879-2827.

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