DE Jimmy Wilkerson is capable of playing any of the four positions on the Bucs' defensive line
On the first full day of practice after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 17-6 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Saturday, Jimmy Wilkerson was one of the last players to leave the field. After finishing a post-practice kickoff drill with the rest of the special teams unit, Wilkerson threw himself down in the middle of the field for an extra set of sit-ups.
Wilkerson performed his impromptu ab workout square in the middle of the Bucs' football field because, well, that's where the versatile defensive lineman feels most comfortable. There's no need to get any more specific.
Having joined the Bucs in March of 2008 as a free agent, after five seasons in Kansas City, Wilkerson is happy to line up anywhere on Tampa Bay's four-man front. During this year's training camp, which wrapped up on Wednesday, Wilkerson has seen time in both the inside and outside line rotations. The Buccaneers' coaching staff has liked what it has seen in both situations.
On passing downs, Wilkerson has established himself as an inside pass-rush threat from one of the two tackle positions. At his more familiar end position, Wilkerson possesses strong pass-rush skills but can also drop back into coverage if necessary.
Wilkerson proved to be a valuable reserve in Kansas City, but the former sixth-round draft pick out of Oklahoma has spent the offseason preparing for his debut as a Buccaneer.
"I've been working hard this offseason, learning new plays, trying to get the camaraderie with the new guys and it's been really good," Wilkerson said. "I was just excited to get out there and play with the guys."
The anticipation bred more excitement on Saturday night when he blocked one pass and later sacked Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne. The sack came in the third quarter and pushed the reeling Dolphins back seven yards.
"It felt good," said Wilkerson, who wore 96 in Kansas City but is getting used to 97 in Tampa "I felt like a rookie again, being on a new team, new number."
After an offseason of learning a new system and becoming acquainted with new teammates, Wilkerson says it was refreshing to strap on a helmet and put on the pads for an actual game. The converted high school quarterback says he has noticed a different mentality with the Buccaneers, one steeped in hard work and positive attitudes.
"They play hard, they hit hard and they have fun at the same time" Wilkerson said. "When I got here a lot of guys came up to me and told me that same thing. So, I knew what to expect coming out here for practice. What they're saying is true, I'm having fun. I play faster now, I'm hitting harder."
Wilkerson's move to Florida has even made the dog days of August more bearable.
"A lot of times guys don't like to go to training camp because it's a long process, and they can't wait to get home, but here everybody's upbeat, the tempo's upbeat. The coaches keep it fun," said Wilkerson. "When we go into meeting rooms no one's dragging in.
"These coaches and players inspire me so much and give me great motivation to go out there and do my job."