Tight end Cameron Brate is 'full go' for Buccaneers training camp, which kicks off with its first practice on Friday. The sixth-year player was actually in the building long before the veterans reported on Thursday, participating in Quarterback School with the rookies in order to get the first reps of his 2019 season after undergoing hip surgery following 2018.
Because of the timing, Brate wasn't able to participate in practice until this week and therefore missed an NFL spring for the first time in his career. For a player that stresses preparedness and is used to being a workhouse both in-season and out, Brate lamented his lack of reps were a concern.
"I tried to do the best I could," Brate said. "[Tight ends] coach Rick Christophel did a really good job with me, working extra trying to make sure I was kind of on the same page with all the new installs we did in the spring but it's definitely different trying to learn the offense when you're 10 yards behind the play, you can kind of see everything versus when you're at the line of scrimmage. I was really thankful I was able to go out there Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday with the rookies and get those first couple reps out of the way with them so that I could have some more familiarity with the offense today and going forward in training camp."
This past week was the culmination of a long offseason spent rehabbing and getting stronger from a torn labrum suffered at the end of the 2017 season – meaning he played through the injury during the entirety of the 2018 season. When asked what hurt the most physically, Brate kind of laughed to himself and responded, 'going from standing to sitting.'
Brate led the team in touchdowns with six last year.
Once the decision to finally have surgery was made, it was a matter then of getting healthy for 2019. The rehabilitation process can sometimes be a lonely one, though Brate said he's generally a positive person who didn't suffer from any doubts while going through it. Instead, it afforded him a new appreciation for the game and serves as his motivation going into a finally healthy 2019.
"I fell in love with the game in a different way," Brate said. "It just motivated me recovering from surgery. It gave me something every single day – you know, if I do these extra reps now, it's going to pay off in the end. That was kind of my motivation throughout my recovery and I'm going to continue to have that chip on my shoulder and try to prove myself again that I am the player that I was in the past."
That player he was in the past? One of quarterback Jameis Winston's favorite targets, especially in the red zone. Brate's overall yards may have been a bit down last season as he played through the pain, but his production wasn't because of his reliability inside 20 yards. Both Brate and Winston are having to learn a new offense – but they get to do it together, which is good news for both players.
"You kind of always fall back to what you've done in the past, especially when you're learning something new," Brate said. "Jameis having a sense of security with me, even just me working with him three days – he was throwing a lot to me Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday which was awesome for me kind of getting back into the swing of things. It is definitely an adjustment. You're going to run your routes a little bit differently. Even though it's technically the same route, different coaching staffs have different philosophies on how they want to run it."
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Brate realizes that he, Jameis and the rest of the receivers and tight ends will have to work on the nuances that come with a different staff. He says it's a non-issue with the work ethic his quarterback already puts in. He also anticipates a 'good contingent' of players working after practice in order to smooth those wrinkles out. He'll adjust, just as his coaching staff has to him and the rest of the Bucs' personnel to maximize the chance for success.
"I think any good coach adjusts to their personnel," Brate said. "I think Coach [Arians] is going to do a good job with what we have here. We have good receivers, good tight ends, so I think he's going to do a really good job in mixing us; different positions, moving us around. A lot of stuff you can do out of two tight ends, you just take out the slot receiver. There's been a lot of that. I think we have a really good balance."
Straight from the horse's mouth. Coach Arians IS going to utilize both Brate and fellow tight end O.J. Howard, so you can finally stop taking my word for it.