"You have to be on point to play in New England, and that's the way it is here," said Underwood, the fourth-year receiver who leads the Bucs with 76 receiving yards through two preseason games. "As a receiver here, you have to be on the same page as the quarterback. And I like that. A smarter player is a better player. That's what New England is known for and that's what we're trying to do here."
Underwood's time in the Patriots system wasn't long. He signed with the team last August but didn't immediately make the active roster. He was re-signed in November and ended up playing in six games and recording three catches for 30 yards. The Patriots famously waived him the night before Super Bowl XLVI in order to promote a defensive lineman from the practice squad, but then re-signed him two days later. He took part in New England's offseason program until his release in May.
The Buccaneers, with Schiano now at the helm after his hiring in January, quickly moved in to give Underwood a new NFL home, and he has done nothing but impress since. On Wednesday morning, Underwood ran routes against some of his former teammates, as the Buccaneers welcomed the Patriots to their headquarters for a mutually-beneficial joint practice.
The Bucs and Patriots will also play each other on Friday in the third preseason game for both teams, which is typically when the starters see the most action. Though it is the Patriots who are coming off a Super Bowl appearance while the Buccaneers are engineering a turnaround after the arrival of a new coaching staff, both teams have championship aspirations for 2012. Underwood sees the Bucs finding success using a similar approach to the Patriots, and staying focused on the details.
"It's going to take time," he said. "We're learning a new system here, with a new offensive coordinator, and it's going to take a lot of reps, especially to get to the level they're at. They've been doing the same thing for a long time now. We're striving to get there, and it's all about having patience but at the same time grasping the offense day by day."