G Arron Sears may be the youngest member of a young line, but he is anything but experienced
For Tampa Bay Buccaneers guard Arron Sears, there was little time to learn the ropes in his rookie season in 2007 — he was thrown right into the mix, right away.
Drafted in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft, Sears joined the Bucs in Tampa and immediately assumed the starting left guard position, a spot he nailed down for all 16 games.
The greenest member of what was the league's youngest starting offensive line in the NFL at the end of the 2007 season, Sears is back for more in 2008 with some experience under his belt and a positive outlook on his group's prospects.
"The expectations for this offensive line with us being young, a lot of people are coming out and saying that this is one of the best offensive lines that Tampa has had," Sears said. "But that's just the words of the preseason. We have to come out every day, one on one and rely on the person beside us to get better every day and work hard."
Just the third rookie offensive lineman since 1990 to start all 16 games for the Bucs, Sears played a physical, gritty style of football and fought through some bumps and bruises along with the usual obstacles rookies face.
"Once I start a game I want to finish every single one of them," Sears said. "You have to know the difference between being injured and being hurt, and I felt like I could play so I wanted to be out there for every single one of them."
Sears said that toughness came in part from the competitive college football program of which he is a product.
"The University of Tennessee and the Southeastern Conference contributed a lot to me being in the state that I was in when I first stepped in here with the Bucs," Sears said. "All my praise goes back to Tennessee for helping me come into the league and be successful in my first year, the competition that you go through playing in the Southeastern Conference and also the coaches that we had at the University of Tennessee."
The Bucs' offensive front features a new member in 2008, free agent acquisition center Jeff Faine. A six-year veteran, Faine brings additional youth to the group but is also its most experienced member (with T Luke Petitgout currently on the PUP list), and Sears said he has been learning from the new leader of the line.
"He's the older guy on the offensive line," Sears said. "He comes out and shows us every single day. He's not a guy that's going to show up and say a lot. He's just going to be an example out there on the field by how he practices every single day."
As he and the rest of his teammates work their way through training camp in preparation for the 2008 season, Sears says he sees improvement every day from his group.
"I definitely can tell [the line has improved] by sitting down and watching the film after every single practice," Sears said. "Guys are being able to see the blitzes a lot faster than we were last year. That's the family in us playing together for 13 games last year. Everybody's been able to pick up the blitzes a lot faster."
While the offensive line may be playing well, the team as a whole went through a less-than-stellar Sunday morning practice session and paid the price afterward.
"We were definitely in trouble," Sears said. "Today wasn't one of the best practices, and Coach wanted to let us know that by making us run gassers. He definitely got our attention. He came out and said it himself. There were a couple of mistakes in practice that he wanted to get everybody's attention, and that's his way of getting everybody's attention by making us run gassers."
While the additional running after practice may have been a little undesirable, Sears has continued his development after his strong rookie season. He says his comfort level is much higher in his second year in the league, something that will allow him to continue to grow.
"Once you get in the grove of things, being a second year guy you start to read blitzes a lot faster," Sears said. "You really start to understand the things the coaches are trying to let you know. At first when you come in it's kind of like speaking a foreign language with a new offense like we have here with the Buccaneers. But going into my second year I am feeling a lot more comfortable with the things [Offensive Line Coach] Bill [Muir] is trying to get across to us."