Carl Nassib is returning to Tampa, but he's doing so by way of Nashville.
Nassib signed up for a second stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Tuesday, but since they were already in Tennessee preparing for some joint practices with the Titans, he was actually in a hotel room when he put pen to paper. That also meant his first practice work back with the Buccaneers would take place at the Titans' facility, not the AdventHealth Training Center in Tampa. It was a quality workout for both Nassib and the team, but the former Raider knows it's going to take some time to get back up to speed in the Buccaneers' defense.
"Yeah, today was my first day back in this scheme and some things are still up there, but it's going to take me a little while to get back into the speed of the scheme for sure," he said.
With Wednesday's practice split mostly split between two fields, with the Bucs' offense in one spot and the defense in the other, Head Coach Todd Bowles couldn't see everything Nassib did in his first day back but he liked what he did witness.
"I watched him during individuals – he looked good there – but we've got to see him in the heat and go a number of plays and get his fundamentals back down because he missed a lot of time," said Bowles.
Nassib's first season with the Buccaneers, 2018, was the last one of Dirk Koetter's tenure as the head coach, with Mike Smith and then Mark Duffner coordinating the defense. Bruce Arians replaced Koetter in 2019 and brought in Bowles to be his defensive coordinator, which has led to a significant resurgence for that unit over the past three years. Nassib was productive in both systems, with 6.5 sacks in 2018 and 6.0 more in 2019, and in the latter season he made a very dangerous pairing with NFL sack leader Shaquil Barrett. The Bucs liked the idea of getting Barrett and Nassib back on the same crew and knew Nassib's experience in the system would help make the reunion work.
"We have a good relationship with him and thought he could still play," said Bowles. "We thought he would be great because he brings a lot of versatility to what we do, and he knows the system. So, knowing the system, having the ability to still play and having camaraderie with the guys was important for us."
While he worked on his own adjustment to getting back on the field after a lengthy absence, Nassib also enjoyed once again having a front-row seat to watch Barrett in action. Barrett signed a long-term deal with the Buccaneers during Nassib's two years in Las Vegas and he remains one of the league's most productive pass rushers.
"Absolutely," said Nassib of enjoying the chance to work with his former rush-mate again. "Shaq was killing it today. He's an All-Pro guy and I'm excited to keep learning from him and have the chance to work with him again."
Nassib said he wasn't surprised to have to wait until August to catch on with a new team, and that he had been selective with his options. He also said the Buccaneers only contacted him for the first time a few days ago, so it's clear his arrival is tied to the loss of third-year edge rusher Cam Gill for an undetermined amount of time to a Lisfranc injury in his right foot. Gill was likely to be the fourth man in the Buccaneers' outside linebacker rotation along with Barrett, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka and Anthony Nelson. Nassib brings good run defense, boundless energy and a good amount of versatility to that group. He was mostly asked to rush from the edge in Las Vegas but says he's willing to fit in anywhere the Bucs want to use him.
"I did not go inside much [for the Raiders] – I'll go where they need me," said Nassib. "I'm here to help the team in any possible way that I can. If that means going inside, outside – yeah, I'll be here for them, whatever they need me to do. Absolutely."
Nassib started five of the 27 games he played in Las Vegas and contributed 4.0 sacks and 13 quarterback hits. He also made news off the field in 2021 when he revealed that he was guy and thus became the first openly gay active player in the NFL. He did so in service of his own mental health and to help others who are dealing with mental health issues.
"It's been great – nothing but a blessing," said Nassib of the decision to come out. "I've gotten the most support from friends, family, teammates, and I'm really, really happy. It's a new year, I'm excited to be a football player again. I'm excited to just go out there and show what I've been doing [and] help the team in any way I can."