Tampa Bay Buccaneers middle linebacker Barrett Ruud was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week on Wednesday.
Ruud, who made just his seventh career start in the NFL last Sunday vs. the New Orleans Saints, was told that he had earned Defensive Player of the Week honors during a team meeting on Wednesday morning.
“I was a little bit surprised, I guess,” Ruud said. “I didn’t even know I was up for it. It’s cool. It’s a good honor. But in the end you have to move on kind of quickly. My friends can probably enjoy it more than I can because I have to start thinking about the next game.”
Ruud helped the Bucs defense limit the New Orleans Saints high-powered offense to just 14 points by recording a team- and career-high 16 tackles and forcing two fumbles, the first of which he recovered. That fumble and recovery in the first quarter eventually led to Tampa Bay’s first offensive touchdown of the game. The Bucs went on to beat the Saints, 31-14.
"We are really pleased with him, he’s got some really big shoes to fill now as our full-time Mike linebacker and he’s filling them really well," said Bucs head coach Jon Gruden. "He’s off to a great start and he’s had back-to-back great performances. On first down, on third down, on the goal line clearly is a very good linebacker and I think the NFL is taking notice of that."
Ruud was quick to credit his teammates for putting him in a position to win the individual award.
“These things come with team success,” Ruud said. “If your defensive team has a great effort, usually someone is going to be recognized for it. That’s the key. The team that forces five or six turnovers, someone will usually get recognized for it.”
Ruud, who entered the 2007 season as a full-time starter for the first time in his career after LB Shelton Quarles was released and retired during the offseason, leads the Bucs in tackles with 28. He also leads the team with two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Tampa Bay invested a second-round selection in Ruud in the 2005 NFL Draft. That meant passing up the opportunity to draft several talented players, including MLB Lofa Tatupu, who was eventually selected by Seattle later in the second round.
While Ruud waited two seasons for his opportunity to start on a full-time basis, Tatupu made an immediate impact on Seattle’s defense. In fact, he made the Pro Bowl in his first two seasons in the NFL.
Waiting for his chance to man the middle of Tampa Bay’s defense wasn’t easy, but it might have been worth the wait, evidenced by Ruud’s performance vs. the Saints and the award he received on Wednesday.
“That may have been the toughest thing for me,” Ruud said. “I went through the draft with Lofa Tatupu and got to know him. [Oakland Raiders LB] Kirk Morrison and I played at the Senior Bowl together. They got a chance to play early and play well early. That was the toughest thing for me – seeing peers around the league doing well. I knew I could do the same sort of things, but I know I had to wait around a little bit. I still watch those guys all the time. I’m always seeing how they are playing. Obviously, Lofa is having a great year so far. I haven’t seen Kirk play. They motivate me.”
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