The Buccaneers plan on playing third-round draft pick Jeremy Zuttah at multiple positions along the offensive line, but he spent the majority of Friday's rookie mini-camp workout at one position.
"Today I was at center, but one of the things the coaches like about me is my versatility, so we're going to just keep working and I'm going to get a shot at all of the positions. I'm going to try to learn them all and see what I'm best at."
The plan certainly isn't for Zuttah to start a regular season game at center in 2008. The Bucs made Jeff Faine the highest-paid center in the NFL by signing him to a six-year, $37.5 million contract during the offseason. However, having Zuttah become a capable backup at center as well as some other positions along the offensive line could prove to be big for the Bucs.
The 6-foot-3, 295-pound Zuttah was a four-year starter at Rutgers. He is considered a versatile offensive lineman, but Zuttah started the final 28 games of his collegiate career at right tackle.
Zuttah put his impressive athleticism on display vs. Louisville as a senior when he lined up at left tackle and was on the receiving end of a lateral that he took up field for a 13-yard gain before being tackled as he attempted to leap over a defender.
Zuttah plans on working his way into Tampa Bay's offense, but as a blocker, not a receiver.
"If you saw the film I landed on my butt a little bit and it's not a great feeling, so I'm done with that," Zuttah said laughing.
One thing certainly stood out to Zuttah in his first practice as a Buccaneer on Friday.
"The whole speed of the game has changed," said Zuttah. "That includes how you learn the playbook."
Zuttah is a quick learner. In fact, he graduated from Rutgers with an economics degree in three and a half years.
"It took a lot of work," Zuttah said of graduating from college early. "It wasn't easy. It was just something I felt like I needed to do in order to get ready for the next level of football. My grades actually went up, so my grades weren't negatively impacted by that."
While he registered a whopping 191 career knockdowns and opened up a plethora of running lanes for Rutgers running back Ray Rice in college, Zuttah really caught the eye of NFL scouts in February at the Combine, where he ran the best 40-yard dash of any offensive lineman with a 4.99 and put up 35 reps of 225 pounds.
"I pride myself on just making the most of every opportunity and [the Combine] was just another opportunity that I was able to take advantage of," said Zuttah.
Zuttah's intelligence along with the fact that he played in a version of the West Coast offense at Rutgers helped him do fairly well in Friday's practice.
"It's a similar offense to what we ran at Rutgers," Zuttah said of Tampa Bay's offense. "There are more intricacies down here, but it's not so far off that it's a brand new playbook to me."
The playbook is familiar to Zuttah, but so is the intensity of his new head coach.
"Coach Gruden is intense," said Zuttah. "I like him a lot. I've only been with him a little and I already like him. I'm used to being with a coach like that from Rutgers."
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