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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Back in Action, Sean Tucker Eager to Show Off His Speed

Now that he's put a heart issue detected at the NFL Combine behind him, rookie RB Sean Tucker is seeking any way to get on the field for the Bucs this season, and his explosive speed may be the key


Sean Tucker, a highly productive running back at Syracuse, went to the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine with the expectation that he was going to surprise some people with his testing numbers. He had posted a training video to social media a bit before the Combine, in which he ran a 40-yard dash that he estimates was the somewhere in the 4.3-4.4 second range. He thought he would do the same in Indianapolis, potentially boosting his draft stock.

Tucker never got the chance. He did indeed attend the Combine, but the day before the running backs were set to run their onfield drills he was informed that a medical check – which is one of the most important parts of the Combine for NFL teams – had unearthed a heart condition about which he was unaware. As a result, he did not take part in the drills, missing that opportunity for an eye-opening 40-yard dash entirely.

That was not the ideal outcome for Tucker, who slipped through the draft without being selected despite earning first-team All-America honors, rushing for 3,182 yards and 27 touchdowns in 33 career games at Syracuse and projecting as, potentially, an excellent change-of-pace back at the NFL level. He did, however, get to pick his first NFL destination as an undrafted free agent and chose to join a Tampa Bay Buccaneers backfield that appears to offer an excellent opportunity for any newcomers.

"It was hard at first, just handling things, when I got the news," said Tucker of his experience in Indianapolis. "It came as a surprise. It was definitely hard, but I was just looking forward and trying to stay ahead of what's next. Just hearing that and taking it in and figuring out what I had to do to come back, and making sure I was on the positive side of things and just focus on what I had to do to come back out here and play football."

In Tampa, the decision was made to keep Tucker shut down during the offseason and focus on making sure he had a clean bill of health for the very start of training camp. The plan worked, Tucker said the issue is now behind him, and now that he's been cleared to play, he's getting plenty of action.

"We're throwing him right in there," said Head Coach Todd Bowles. "He's got just as good of an opportunity as anybody over there. He has great college credentials; we knew that when we got him. We understood where he was when we got him. He's shown that he's a competitor when he's in there, so [we're] just ready to get the pads on and see what he does over the next couple of weeks."

After the Bucs released veteran back Leonard Fournette in March, second-year man Rachaad White became the presumptive starter, and in fact he had that job for the second half of 2022 even it was still more of a time-share. Behind him, the Bucs have fourth year back Ke'Shawn Vaughn, a former third-round pick who has had relatively few opportunities over the past three years; Chase Edmonds, a sixth-year player who had two seasons of 850+ yards from scrimmage in Arizona; Patrick Laird, who spent all of last year on Tampa Bay's practice squad; plus, Tucker and fellow undrafted rookie Ronnie Brown. Even if White's spot at the top of that list seems pretty solid, there's still room for the others to jockey for position on the depth chart, and the Buccaneers could choose to keep four backs on the 53-man roster.

"Everybody's got their chance to showcase what they got and just perform and see where that takes you," said Tucker. "I would say [my] personal goal is just being able to make the field however I can. Just being on the field and being able to play and, you know, just putting myself out there."

If Tucker does make the active roster and carve out some sort of role on offense, it will probably be one that makes use of his top-level speed. A track star in high school, he has the ability to make one sharp cut and then explode up the field for big gains. That makes him a good fit for the zone running scheme that new Offensive Coordinator Dave Canales is expected to emphasize. There are similarities to what the backs are being asked to do in Canales' offense and what Tucker did at Syracuse for three seasons.

"It gives us options, having more field – especially for me – having more field to run and having space," he said. "That creates opportunities, and for a running back that's definitely something that you want."

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