The Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded for running back Jeff Demps on April 27. Four months and 15 days later, he practiced for the first time with his new team.
It may have been a slow process getting Demps on the field, but now it's all about speed. Demps has it, and the Buccaneers are going to find out if they can use it.
"The guy has not played football in a while," said Head Coach Greg Schiano on Monday. "So we'll try to get him back into playing football, get him educated to the Buccaneer ways, and then as we roll into it, if there's promise there, then we'll move forward. If he's feeling good then we'll keep moving forward. It's a two-way street."
Schiano said there is "no immediate plan" as to what Demps could contribute to the team on Sundays. However, there is a specific procedure for the team to follow as it decides what to do with the first-year player who won national championships at the University of Florida in both football and track and field. Demps was placed on the "reserve/did not report" list when training camp began and he was still pursuing his track endeavors, and thus did not count against the team's roster limit. Now that he has returned, he can spend up to two weeks on a commissioner's exemption before the Bucs will have to decide whether or not to find a spot for him on the 53-man roster.
There is no doubt that Demps has world-class speed. He won a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics with the U.S. 4x100-meter relay team; Demps, Darvis Patton, Trell Kimmons and Justin Gatlin broke the American record in that event during the preliminary Olympic heats with a time of 37.38 seconds. For the Gators' football team, Demps played in 51 games with 27 starts and racked up 3,592 all-purpose yards.
"I'm excited to have him here," said Schiano. "He'll walk into the National Football League probably as the fastest player in this league. That's always nice to have on your team."
Demps finished his collegiate career in 2011 but chose to focus on his Olympic pursuits rather than attend the NFL Scouting Combine in the spring of 2012. Still, several teams showed interest in signing him during the 2012 offseason, and he eventually landed with the New England Patriots on a three-year deal. However, he spent the 2012 NFL season on injured reserve.
The Buccaneers traded running back LeGarrette Blount to the Patriots on the final day of the 2013 draft in exchange for Demps and a seventh-round pick. General Manager Mark Dominik made it clear that the trade hinged on the inclusion of a draft pick, not Demps, but now the Buccaneers will have a chance to find out what the other half of that deal is worth.