Tampa Bay could be in the market for a wide receiver this offseason, and one of the players the Bucs likely will target is one of their own.
Wide receiver Paris Warren turned in an impressive 2007 training camp and preseason, where he led the team in receptions with 15 for 191 yards and caught four touchdowns.
Unfortunately for Warren, his game-winning, 31-yard touchdown grab vs. the Houston Texans in the preseason finale at Raymond James Stadium turned out to be his last when it resulted in him dislocating his ankle on the play.
The 6-foot, 213-pound Warren's dislocated ankle required season-ending surgery, which was unfortunate seeing as he likely would have earned a 53-man roster spot coming out of preseason.
“Things happen for a reason and I never hang my head,” Warren said. “To me, this year went by real quick. There were ups and downs of rehab, but I’m here now. It’s 2008 and it’s time to go to work.”
Warren, who originally joined Tampa Bay as a seventh-round draft pick out of Utah in 2005, told the media on Monday that he was ahead of schedule in terms of rehabbing his surgically-repaired ankle. In fact, Warren believes he will be 100 percent ready to go when organized team activities begin in April.
"I'll be at full strength by the time OTAs [organized team activities] start up," said Warren. "I'm way ahead of schedule. They didn't give me an exact time with it, but they just told me to take my time with the rehab. I'll be ready by OTAs.
“I’m already running, though. It’s just a matter of me trusting my ankle. It doesn’t hurt anymore. That’s the good thing. Cutting and your range of motion and being able to plant. That’s the big thing I’ll have to test. The main thing is me using it and not going out there and being afraid to cut.”
Warren has been without his cast or crutches for months and has already began testing his ankle by doing some sprinting.
“I’ve tested it, but I haven’t really tested it yet,” Warren said. “I have a different plan for this year. I’m going to drop some weight and go back to my old college weight around 200-205 pounds. I was about 215 pounds this year, so that’s about 10 pounds.”
The Bucs could have used Warren during the 2007 regular season. Wide receivers Joey Galloway, Michael Clayton, Ike Hilliard, Maurice Stovall and Mark Jones each suffered their own respective injury during the season. Jones and Stovall finished the season in injured reserve.
"It was frustrating that I couldn't contribute and help, but it was nothing I could control," said Warren. “Those are the guys I love. Ike and Joey – I love those guys. I hope they stick around. I want to learn as much as I can before their time is up. They’ve been really helpful through my entire rehab.”
The story of the 2007 Buccaneers has been one of fantastic team chemistry. Many believe that the show of support by the entire team coming out on the field for Warren when he injured his ankle against Texans is where that chemistry was founded.
“I think it was portrayed really when Paris Warren got hurt in the preseason, when Cadillac [Williams] went down in North Carolina,” Gruden said. “You don’t see that. It’s not scripted, it’s just special, especially at this level. This is a unique bond, a unique togetherness that we shared and hopefully we can continue to build upon that.”
Warren joked at the notion that he not only started the trend of the entire team showing their on-field support by surrounding a fallen teammate, but that he also started a trend of Buccaneers players having to be carted off the field. “They all kind of blame me [for all the injuries],” Warren said. “They say I started it!”
Warren is scheduled to become an exclusive rights free agent during the 2008 offseason. He is expected to be re-signed by the Buccaneers, who also have Galloway, Clayton, Hilliard and Stovall under contract through 2008.
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