S Sabby Piscitelli will try to push the team's veteran safeties for playing time
Shortly after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers completed their 10-player haul in last April's NFL Draft, Head Coach Jon Gruden anointed first-round pick Gaines Adams the leader of that class.
When the Buccaneers' take the field for their first training camp practice on Friday morning, Adams will have all of his men with him. After the rookie defensive end signed his first NFL contract early Thursday afternoon, second-round picks Arron Sears and Sabby Piscitelli followed his lead a little later in the day. Early Thursday evening, the Bucs announced completed deals for Sears and Piscitelli, completing their rookie class contract work for the year.
The Bucs also announced two other roster moves, as they have placed second-year defensive end Charles Bennett on injured reserve and waived second-year tight end T.J. Williams.
Thus, once again the Bucs will be spared a rookie holdout of any consequence. All 10 of the '07 draftees accompanied the team on its usual camp-opening tour of the Disney Wide World of Sports complex, then returned for Gruden's first official meeting back at the Celebration Hotel.
Sears and Piscitelli were almost certainly motivated by a desire to be on the practice field from day one as camp opened. Both rookies are expected to be serious competitors for playing time in 2007, perhaps even starting jobs. Sears is a strong candidate for the left guard spot on the offensive line and Piscitelli could prove to be an ideal strong safety in the Bucs' system.
The 6-3, 320-pound Sears played both guard and tackle at Tennessee. A leader on the Volunteers' offense, Sears is considered one of the finest offensive linemen ever to come through the program. Last fall, he was the first Tennessee player to win the Jacobs Blocking Award, given annually to the SEC's best blocker, since 1990. He also earned All-America honors while leading the Volunteers with 71 knockdown blocks.
Sears started 37 games while at Tennessee, including 26 at left tackle, his position as a senior, six at right tackle, four at right guard and one at left guard. Tennessee coaches assessed him with only three sacks allowed over the course of 1,552 plays during his final two seasons.
Piscitelli's instincts and ball skills are evident in his 15 career interceptions, tied for second all-time at Oregon State. The 6-3, 225-pounder started 36 games at OSU and racked up 178 tackles and 29 passes defensed to go with his collection of picks. As a senior last fall, he started all 12 games and racked up 64 tackles, five interceptions and 12 passes defensed.
With his size and quick move to the line, Piscitelli is obviously a strong run defender. However, he also possesses enough speed and change-of-direction skills to be adept in coverage. His closing speed can be seen on punt coverage, where he often served as one of the gunners.
Bennett suffered a knee injury on the practice field in June; he will miss the entire 2007 season. A seventh-round pick out of Clemson – and Adams' former linemate – Bennett started his rookie season on the practice squad but was promoted to the active roster in November. He appeared in three games and contributed two tackles.
Williams suffered the same fate as Bennett a year ago. A sixth-round pick in the same draft, he ruptured an Achilles' tendon in practice and ended up on injured reserve for his rookie campaign. He recovered and practiced with the team this offseason before his release on Thursday.