When Greg Schiano arrived in Tampa and assembled the team's new coaching staff, he made it clear that the returning Buccaneers would start with a clean slate. In terms of on-field performance, that meant the coaches would judge the players by what they saw on the field in the spring and summer, not by what they had done – or not done – in the past.
That didn't mean that the new coaches would neglect to do their homework on the returning players, or that they would ignore any relevant circumstances. In the case of third-year safety Cody Grimm, that meant recognizing that he was returning from a season-ending injury in 2011, and also that his particular brand of play always looked better when the lights went on and the real hitting began.
A seventh-round pick in 2010, Grimm has been limited to 14 games during his first two NFL seasons thanks to a broken leg in November of his rookie season and torn knee ligaments in September of 2011. However, he started 12 of those 14 games and consistently impressed with his hard-nosed tackling and his instincts.
Grimm has found the nature and timing of his second leg injury to be easier to recover from, and feels as if he's in much better condition this summer than last. However, the team's safety position has been dramatically reworked during that time, with Tanard Jackson, Sean Jones and Corey Lynch exiting, Mark Barron arriving as a first-round pick and Ronde Barber moving from cornerback to a spot in centerfield. Grimm has been running with the third unit in training camp, paired at strong safety with rookie Keith Tandy at free, but Schiano and staff knew that his value will be more evident when the games began.
"I think when I arrived here and the staff arrived here he was still coming back from that injury," said Schiano a week into training camp. "And fortunately or unfortunately, that's what you see. He's definitely a different player right now than he was in the spring time. I think Cody's strength is when you get into game situations because you can go live, because he'll put his face in there and he'll go get you. I think he's an intelligent football player. I'm anxious to see him play in games, special teams and defense."
In fact, the Bucs thought enough of what Grimm could do on game day that they gave him a very prominent role in the preseason opener last Friday in Miami. The team decided after arriving at the stadium to hold Barron out due to a very minor toe injury that was causing him some discomfort that night. Grimm was picked to start in Barron's place.
The decision may have been based on Grimm's deeper well of starting experience, as compared to Tandy, Ahmad Black or Larry Asante.
"Maybe it was that," Grimm agreed. "But I was excited when they told me and I was ready to play. It wasn't completely last-minute. They told me before the game if Mark couldn't play I would start, so I had an idea."
Grimm finished the game with one tackle and one stop on special teams. He helped the Bucs' defense pitch a first-half shutout and saw a little more action in the second half.
"I thought I performed alright," he said. "I missed a tackle I should have had, but that's going to happen sometimes. Aside from that, I did some good things. I'll just watch the film, get better and improve on last week's performance."