Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Early Returns

Camp-Opening Notes: Jeremy Trueblood eager to continue his transition to right tackle…Bucs “day-to-day” on plans for Jay Fiedler…Coach Gruden addresses dozens of topics

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Rookie T Jeremy Trueblood played left tackle at BC but wants to provide competition at right tackle in his first Bucs camp

At Boston College, Jeremy Trueblood was a left tackle, a starter at that spot for his last 20 collegiate games. For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Trueblood will start out at right tackle.

That shift to the opposite side put the 6-8, 320-pound rookie in an unenviable position of making three adjustments at the same time: from the college to the pros, from the Eagles' offense to Jon Gruden's and from one set of rules to their opposite. His first two months in the NFL, after the Bucs grabbed him in the second round of the NFL's late-April draft, were intense and productive. Tampa Bay coaches raved about Trueblood's progress.

The third month might have been the toughest, though.

The Bucs, like every team in the league, followed their three-month offseason program with one final chunk of vacation time, allowing players and coaches to clear their minds before the beginning of training camp. Trueblood, however, was anxious to continue his supersized NFL training.

Fortunately, he was able to get his contract in the books by Thursday morning, removing the last obstacle to getting back on the field. In fact, despite the 11th-hour negotiations, Trueblood was one of the first players to arrive at the Celebration Hotel, arriving 15 minutes before the reporting window of 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.

"I am ready to play some football," said the big rookie. "I was pretty confident I was going to be here on time. I just wanted to get here and get ready to go. I wasn't really too concerned about it because I knew it was going to happen. I have never been that [nervous] type of guy, but as I drove down here I started to get a little anxious and a little excited. I am ready to go."

Trueblood wants to build on the clear progress he made in May and June.

"It was very valuable," he said of the offseason program. "The whole switch from left tackle to right tackle was a little stressful at first, but it came along just fine. I was feeling really comfortable, so hopefully when it picks back up I will feel that same comfort."

The battles for the five offensive line spots will be among the most important storylines of this camp, even with all five of last year's starters returning. The versatility of many of the candidates, such as Trueblood, Sean Mahan, Davin Joseph, Anthony Davis and Jeb Terry, means there are countless possible combinations for the final starting line. However, Gruden did clarify the spots at which a few of those men would be competing, at least at the start of camp. For instance, Trueblood will start out on the right edge.

"Sean Mahan will compete at center in some degree with John Wade," said Gruden of the team's returning starter at right guard. "Jeb Terry comes into the picture again at right guard. We've got some people who can play the game inside. We're hoping that [Torrin] Tucker, obviously with Trueblood, can challenge and push our current tackles that we have."

A chance to compete – that's all Trueblood is counting on. Fourth-round pick Dan Buenning started all 16 games at right guard in 2005, his first season in the NFL, but offensive linemen infrequently land starting jobs that quickly. Trueblood can't control what the coaching staff ultimately decides to do; he can simply work to prove himself as quickly as possible.

"I just expect to learn the offense as quickly as possible and just keep going," he said. "I want to add some competition to the offensive line and hopefully help in any way I can. I feel more comfortable [after the offseason work] so hopefully I can succeed."

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Jay Watching

Jay Fiedler's surgically-repaired right shoulder is not yet 100% healthy, but it's close. How close remains to be seen.

Fiedler signed with the Buccaneers on June 29 after Luke McCown went down in a June practice with a knee injury. At the time, he was in the early stages of a throwing program designed to return his throwing shoulder, which was injured in Week Four last season, to normal strength and range of motion. Fiedler has continued that program in the four-week interim, allowing him to report to his first Bucs camp with a chance to get involved quickly.

"It's definitely come a long way since I was down here on my visit about a month ago," said the 11th-year veteran. "I'm excited with the progress. I'm happy with the way things have gone and I'm very hopeful that by the start of the season I'll be a hundred percent."

Fiedler arrived at camp a little before 2:00 p.m., dropped off his bags and then headed directly to the Wide World of Sports Complex to meet with Shannon Merrick, the Bucs' director of rehabilitation, and the team's medical staff. The staff's evaluation will determine how the team treats Fiedler at the start of practice on Friday. Gruden said the Bucs' newest quarterback could start the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.

The "active" PUP list isn't a drastic measure; players can come off the list and join in practice at any time. Alternately, the Bucs could decide that Fiedler's shoulder is strong enough to let him work, but work out a schedule that gives him extra rest.

"It's going to be day-to-day as far as how much I can do," said Fiedler. "I don't know if I'll be able to participate in both practices every day. I might need to give it a little bit of a rest here and there. But I'm going to go with my feel, with the medical staff, get input from both sides and go from there."

Fiedler and Gruden spent the week leading up to training camp going through a crash-course on the Bucs' offense, so the former Dolphin and Jet QB should be mentally ready to go if he is given medical clearance.

That determination will be announced on Friday morning along with, potentially, several other moves. McCown, for instance, is clearly unable to practice at this point, but the team still has several options as to how to deal with his status.

"His situation is pending a little bit right now, whether he goes on injured reserve or PUP," said Gruden of the third-year passer. "There will be three, four or five other guys who will be checking out with our doctors."

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More from Coach Gruden

Gruden touched on a variety of additional topics during a long and upbeat press conference on Thursday afternoon.

On if it makes it easier to have so many starters back from 2005: "Well, there's no guarantee that the starters who started last year will start last year. We feel like there are going to be some jobs that are going to be very competitive. We're hoping that this rookie class, some of the free agents that we did sign and some of our second and third-year players will make things very interesting. When you do have continuity, it's a big step, I think, in the right direction. It's the key to getting better, in my opinion."

On if the team has a different vibe this year: "I think in our building there are a lot of high expectations. There's a genuine will to become a great football team in this building here. But I haven't seen a lot of people give us high marks or predict great things for us at all. We'll just keep our goals and our expectations private, and we'll get what we deserve. We've got a great schedule, a difficult, challenging one indeed, and we're looking forward to meeting that challenge."

On what he likes about training at Disney and if it will continue when the team's new facility opens in Tampa: "Well, I don't know that. I just know that this has been a great setting for us. I've always been one to believe that if you can get away from where you live a little bit it gives you an opportunity to isolate your team a little bit, where they can come together and focus on what they have to do. This is a great facility. The city of Orlando is tremendous. We've had a chance, I think, to spread the Buccaneer flag a little bit further in the state of Florida. It's been very positive. The people here at Celebration are unique, they're great. And our facility, as far as I'm concerned, is the best in the football here at the Disney complex. I've been very thankful and appreciative of the opportunity we've had here."

On if he likes flying under the radar as a team: "Oh, I don't know. I was just making the statement that I don't think a lot of people expected much from us a year ago and I don't think that's changed much going into this training camp. We're in a very competitive division. Atlanta's added some high-profile players, as has New Orleans certainly, and the Carolina Panthers have as well. It will be interesting."

On if he gets involved in deciding where the team holds camp: "Well, I don't get that involved with it, other than I want the best for our players. Certainly this has been a great situation. They tell me that our facility back in Tampa will be the best football. I haven't seen it and I have not gotten near it; I want to be surprised. So we'll address the future here soon. The people who make those decisions certainly will make those by doing their research and what they deem is the best for our football team."

On how he feels about the team's backup quarterback options: "I really like our starter. It all starts right there. I don't know a lot of people who can name the second and third quarterback of the Colts, or the second and third quarterbacks for many of these teams in football. There's some real concern if your starter goes down. We were able to overcome that last year. We were one of the few teams who were able to overcome injury at that position. But we like [Chris] Simms a lot. I expect him to show you where he is starting tomorrow morning. We drafted a young guy that we're encouraged by, Bruce Gradkowski out of Toledo. He's got a long way to go but there's some athleticism, there's some upside, to him. Tim Rattay's played in games and played well at times, so he has some experience. Would we like to add another healthy arm? You bet. That's why we went out and looked into Jay Fiedler's situation. We're optimistic that he'll be able to go shortly, if not right away."

On if he will change the approach to how many reps Chris Simms gets this year in practice: "We have a little thing that we do every year with the starter. Chris's reps will go up a little bit obviously, and we need for that to happen. He needs to take control of this football team. Obviously, with him being left-handed, we need to make a full commitment to a left-handed quarterback because there are some other things that change with that. But his workload is going to increase. That's just the way he is. He responds to it quite well. He's a very high-conditioned athlete who I think thrives on more and more work that he can get. Bruce and Tim Rattay will take the seconds and third and when Jay is ready to go, he'll go. Jared Allen will help us out, also."

On how much better the offense will be this year: "This could be the youngest offense in football. Outside of Mike Alstott and Joey Galloway, this is a very young team. Anthony Davis, Dan Buenning, Davin Joseph and [Jeremy Trueblood] now in the mix potentially, the tight end Alex Smith, the running back Cadillac [Williams], Simms…these are young people. We're hoping that a blend of Ike Hilliard and the veterans we talked about will help us. We have a chance to build a team on offense much like they've done around here on defense over the years around some really great players. Hopefully, Cadillac, Alex Smith and some of these guys will be guys we can build our team around for years to come."

On if the new coaches on defense have similarities with the departed coaches: "Well, no one's the same. This Monte Kiffin is still the defensive coordinator – I want to make that point perfectly clear. It's not like our defense is going to change. Monte Kiffin is the defensive coordinator, Joe Barry is the linebackers coach – that hasn't changed. Jethro Franklin in four years in Green Bay did a great job with the Packers' defensive line, with Kabeer [Gbaja-Biamila] and some of the guys that he did coach. He's going to put his own spin on this. Rod [Marinelli] was a great coach for us and we're going to miss him. [Franklin] has some big shoes to fill but we think Jethro can fill them. Greg Burns is an outstanding young coach. Mike Tomlin will certainly be missed as a friend and as a guy who busted his butt for us and got what he deserved, a coordinator position. But these two guys have talent. I think they have brains, they have passion and they're going to do a good job for us."

On if there is some different dynamic with a team when it's defending a title: "I think so. We didn't do a very good job defending our last title around here, I know that. It's hard to do. You look around these divisions and teams change so dramatically, some for the better and some not for the better. That's why you just better take it one step at a time and just worry about your own house here. Try to keep developing players, try to manage your training camp creatively and get the most out of your players and try to stay injury-free. I think that's the goal. You can't really worry so much anymore about the other guys because they change so much. We respect that and yet we don't fear it."

On Mike Alstott's role: "He's a fullback here and in our big-back offense he's a tailback. That hasn't changed. Obviously, Cadillac Williams, his role might change also. He might carry the ball 500 times, I don't know. I'm not going to stand up here and say we're going to run the ball more or throw the ball more. We've got to see what we have here. We do know that Cadillac, we think, can be a great back here and a tremendous player here. Michael Pittman has a role for us here also. We want to obviously keep Mike Alstott as a big part of this attack as a rusher and a receiver and a leader. We'll talk him into playing 13 or 14 years before it's all said and done."

On David Boston: "We're hoping [Michael] Clayton and David Boston both come back to the status that they belong in. I did like what I saw of Boston. I really think as a young guy – he's not 40 years old like I am, or 42 – this is a young guy who's had great success in pro football. He's had some setbacks and they've been well-documented, but he's real big and he's real fast and he's got a burning desire right now to prove he can still play. I'm encouraged, I'm excited about working with this guy."

On Boston's attitude: "Great. He's been working every day. He's a quick study and he's learned our stuff extremely fast. I'm going to judge him for myself. I like what I've seen a lot, our coaches like him a lot and our players, many of them have played with him at Arizona – Simeon [Rice], Mike Pittman. Thomas Jones played with him, a guy who I also know who was in here. We've had a lot of luck bringing guys in here from the Cardinals, if you want to be honest. Hopefully he can do the same things that some of the others have done."

On Boston's health: "We're going to try to be creative with some of our players as we have in previous years. He might be a one-a-day guy, as Joey Galloway will be, and some of our veteran players. We might want to take a look at some of our younger players and use an extra day, or half a day, to let some players recover. We're going to be creative with David. I'm excited to put him out there so our fans can see him, because this is a great big old guy who has some flair about him. He's going to bring it to the practice field, I believe."

On if he feels like he's coaching differently now: "Well, I'll tell you, the adjustment to the heat has been one for me, coming from California. The heat index, when it's in the 110-112 area, you've got to really be careful. We've tried to stay on the cutting edge on how to keep the body temperature cool. Todd Toriscelli and our training staff does a great job. But we don't want to cut back practices, we don't want to call off practices. We want to go out there and work hard and get better every day. We're going to try to drive our players hard. Training camp is not supposed to be easy. At the same time, with the reduction of players – you're only allowed to have 80 or 85 players here in camp – you have to be realistic."

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