CB Blue Adams has been red-hot in practice lately
If Blue Adams has learned anything during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2006 training camp, it's patience.
That's not an easy lesson for an NFL cornerback, where speedy receivers and quarterbacks with deft touch demand the type of quick-twitch movement that very few people can muster. For that matter, it is a tough thing to ask of a player who is used to fighting for his career every summer.
But patience, Adams has found, is an essential ingredient of playing safety, and safety is where Adams has found a potential new path onto the Buccaneers' 53-man roster.
The Buccaneers, feeling better stocked on the corners than in the middle of the secondary this summer, have asked Adams, the third-year veteran and special teams standout to switch positions, making his training camp one of significant adjustments. Forced to learn on the fly, Adams struggled early with being in the right position on every play, but his play over the last two weeks has been noticeably stronger.
Head Coach Jon Gruden has noticed. Fans who've attended camp practices at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex have noticed, thanks to a string of highlight plays. Chris Simms has definitely noticed.
"Oh, yeah, he's made a big improvement," said the Bucs' starting quarterback. "The best things he has going for him is that he's extremely athletic. He can really run for a safety. He does a great, great job of recovering when he is beat, but in the last two weeks he's been on fire back there."
"The difficult thing is learning how to watch the quarterback," said Adams. "At cornerback, you're always watching him from a side angle but at safety you're right on top of him. It makes your breaks a little different. You have to really key him and not get too much of a jump. I just try to be as patient as possible until I see the ball up in the air, then go get it."
He did that at least twice during practice on Tuesday morning. Two deep balls over the middle, one intended for Michael Clayton and one intended for Joey Galloway, ended up in Adams' hands instead. On the first one, he had to leap high in the air to snatch the ball before it could fall over his head into Clayton's waiting hands.
Those moments have come more frequently over the last two weeks as Adams has become more comfortable reading the eyes of the Bucs' quarterbacks. At first, Adams said, the passer could simply fake in one direction at the start of the play and he would immediately tear off in that direction. Now he's learned to let the play develop.
"I'm now just getting that view of the quarterback, which is allowing me to get better breaks," he said. "Now I'm just focusing on the quarterback key, really."
Adams graded out well in the Bucs' preseason opener against the New York Jets, too, helping the reserve defense completely shut down the Jets in the second half. As the Bucs get closer to the difficult days in which they will have to pare 36 players from the roster, Adams' chances seem to be getting better. His ability to play either position in the secondary can only help.
"He has had a good camp," said Gruden. "He's made a move to safety and his overall versatility is helping us. He can play corner, he can play in the nickel corner position, he can play safety and he's a good [special] teams guy. He's had a good, good camp here in Orlando."
Adams, a seventh-round draft choice of the Detroit Lions in 2003, is coming off his busiest NFL season. He played in 13 of the Bucs' 16 games, primarily on special teams, and proved to be a standout in that area, notching 13 tackles. He even played briefly on defense against Detroit in November, notching one tackle.
The Bucs have had interest in Adams since his rookie season. They signed him to their practice squad after he was released by the Lions, but the Jacksonville Jaguars came along and plucked him off that squad for their active roster in October. Adams played in eight games for the Jags in 2003 but did not land a spot in the league in 2004. The Bucs signed him back after the season, in January of 2005, and sent him off to Europe, where he became an All-NFLEL performer for the Rhein Fire. That, and of course his special teams prowess, helped catapult him to the Bucs' active roster in September.
He knows the kicking game is still his best chance to stick around in 2006.
"Whatever they need me to do, I'll do," said Adams. "If that's running down on punts or covering kickoffs, that's my job and I want to do it. I'm a special teams guru, I think. But it doesn't really matter to me where I play. At corner I make plays, at safety I make plays."
Adams' goal for the reminder of August is to string together as many practices like the one he had on Tuesday morning as he can. That means continuing his time-condensed education at safety.
"I'm just trying to adjust to it as quickly as possible," said Adams.
While staying patient, of course.