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Cam Gill Returns to the Field With a Bang

OLB Cam Gill, playing in his first game since a season-ending injury early in the 2022 preseason, celebrated his return with 1.5 sacks but knows he still has to make the most of every opportunity

Gill

Cam Gill , edge rusher for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, owns a particularly interesting spot in NFL history. His very first sack, which he split with high-profile NFLer Ndamukong Suh, came in Super Bowl LV, won handily by the Buccaneers over Patrick Mahomes' Chiefs, 31-9.

Since then, Gill has proved to be more than the answer to a novelty trivia question. An undrafted free agent in 2020 out of Wagner, an FCS program that has produced a total of two NFL draft picks, Gill was impressive enough as a rookie to earn a spot on the active roster. That didn't lead to a lot of playing time – 22 defensive snaps a rookie – but he made the team again in 2021 and had 1.5 sacks and three QB hits in just 100 more snaps.

In 2022, the Buccaneers moved on from edge rusher Jason Pierre-Paul and saw sack leader Shaq Barrett felled by an Achilles tendon tear at midseason. That should have been a golden opportunity for Gill to pick up significant playing time, but it was not to be. Unfortunately, he suffered a Lisfranc foot injury in the preseason opener in 2022 and spent the year rehabbing on injured reserve.

The Bucs were thrilled to see Barrett running full speed when training camp began two weeks ago, but more quietly they also got Gill back into the fold as they look to put together a deep edge-rush rotation. The Bucs held Barrett, and most of their starters, out of their preseason opener on Friday night against Pittsburgh, but they still had a welcome return-to-action story in Gill, who recorded 1.5 sacks in his first game action in almost exactly a year and says he feels "100 percent."

"It's very rewarding," said Gill of his return to the field. "Me and Shaq, we put in work together in that season. So you know, both of us ended up on IR, we were in the training room most of the time. We pushed each other every moment to get back out here and do what we do best. It just feels good to be out here running around with my brothers, playing the game that I love.

In the week leading up to Friday's preseason opener, Head Coach Todd Bowles identified the outside linebacker position as the one that would be most difficult to pare down when the roster is cut from 90 players to 53. Tampa Bay spent two draft picks on OLBs Yaya Diaby and Jose Ramirez and are obviously getting Barrett back into the mix. Gill acknowledged that his production against the Steelers could help in that competition but doesn't want to get ahead of himself.

"It can, but you really can't get caught up in stats and stuff," said Gill. "Really, the tape is telling. We'll have to meet as a unit and meet as a defense and see how good the tape looks. Practice, preseason…it all matters. We've got a lot of fight, we've got a lot of talent that's in this room, a lot of competition. We push each other to get better. We're just going to keep getting after it.

"We just preach to make the most of our opportunities here. Will Gholston, in my rookie year, told me, 'Don't count the reps, make the reps count.' Whenever I get my opportunity I'm just trying to do what I can to put my team in the best position to win."

Gill accounted for 50% of the Bucs' sacks on Friday night. He split one of them with Mike Greene and saw rookie Markees Watts add one late in the contest. As Gill noted, that's just one small part of the overall evaluation at the position as the 53-man roster is completed. Still, it certainly doesn't hurt.

"He got two sacks," said Bowles after the game. "Again, I've got to see the totally of his play and how he played, but two sacks always helps you."

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