DE Greg White worked at both right and left end during the 2008 offseason and hopes to expand his role this fall
That's how Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defensive end Greg White interrupted an interviewer after Tuesday's practice at One Buccaner Place, shutting down before he had even heard the entire question.
After a moment of somewhat uncomfortable silence, during which he impressively kept a straight face, White suddenly burst into laughter. He wasn't being standoffish…he was just being himself.
That really is White, on a daily basis. Sporting an ever-present grin as mischievous as Dr. Suess's "The Cat in the Hat," the ebullient second-year veteran can routinely be found poking fun or joking around with anyone and everyone who will lend him an ear – teammates and members of the media included.
But all jokes aside, there is at least one thing White takes very seriously – his work on the football field.
After a breakout performance in 2007, in which he rose from the Arena League ranks to lead the Bucs in sacks, White is back for a second go-round in pewter and red. He is eager to prove his out-of-nowhere eight-sack campaign wasn't a flash in the pan.
White signed a new deal with the Bucs on the eve of training camp and said his practice sessions and preseason games have gone very well thus far, leaving him excited to kick off the 2008 regular season.
"It's going well," White said. "We're getting some good pass rush. The coaches moved me back to right end to pass rush, so I'm feeling better and looking better. I think they're satisfied with it. I'm glad to get this last preseason game on and be ready for the season."
That move back to the right side of the line, at least for some of the snaps he'll draw, is a return to familiar surroundings for White. He spent the majority of the 2007 season at right defensive end, but got a lot of work on the left side during training camp.
Returning his primary focus to the right defensive end slot will allow White to enjoy his more natural position along the line, but he said he feels comfortable at both spots and has been working hard to master each of them.
"I'm more comfortable on the right, but I'll play wherever they want me to play," White said. "That's how the business is. I've also been trying to play left side. That's something that I've really been trying to focus on, along with how to play the run and getting better against the run. It's working out well."
With his first full offseason and training camp as a Buccaneer under his belt and an increased level of comfort with his defensive playbook, White said he's been able to think less and react more on the playing field. There was, however, one adjustment from his first year to his second that went a little less smoothly.
"I can play a lot faster now because I know the defense, but I don't think you ever get used to the heat," White laughed. "But I'm doing well with it. I'm definitely just getting the defense down so I can play 100 miles per hour.
"I've been learning the defense so now I can just play faster without thinking. I got the OTA stuff under my belt and I feel better and more confident about my pass rush moves and how to play within the defense and make plays within the defense."
Despite the New Jersey native's struggles to adapt to the muggy Florida climate, conditioning has also been a major point of emphasis for White. Earlier in the offseason, he mentioned his fitness level as priority No. 1, and as the regular season nears White feels good about where he's at.
"It's coming, slowly but surely," said White. "The only way you're going to get in 'game shape' is to play in games, but I feel like I'm stronger, I feel like I'm a little bit faster than I was last year. It's just a lot of concentration and I'm just going to get better. That's all you can do."
The circuitous path White took to the NFL has been well-documented, as he was cut by the Texans and Bears and several other teams before becoming an Arena League star, all while working odd jobs in between.
After exploding onto the scene last season and proving his doubters wrong – especially after a 2.5-sack, two-forced-fumble performance against Houston, the team that originally drafted him – White no longer feels animosity towards the teams that passed on him. To him, it's all water under the bridge, and his gaze remains focused on the future.
Besides, Thursday's contest against Houston is the preseason finale, where most starters won't play much, if at all. Therefore, he said, sticking it to his former team in such a setting wouldn't prove much anyway.
"I played the Texans last year and I took it out on them," White said with a grin. "I think I had like three sacks unofficially, but I got two-and-a-half. I think I showed them what I had last year. If they don't player their starters and I'm out there playing, they aren't going to give me too much credit anyway. So I'm just going to go out there and play Buc ball, that's all."
White's brand of 'Buc ball' in 2007 came primarily as a pass-rush specialist. He seems to have solidified that role again in 2008, but is fighting for even more reps with the first unit.
"I'll hopefully have a bigger role than I did last year," White said. "I played mostly on the nickel defense and I'm still doing that now. Slowly but surely I'm getting more reps in the base formation, so it's coming along."
The key to his continued development? Just ask the big man yourself, assuming he doesn't jokingly brush aside your inquiry.
"More big plays. More pass rushes, more sacks, more fumbles, just bigger plays and trying to make things happen," White said eagerly. "I'm still learning and getting better. I'm not taking this opportunity for granted; I'm trying to take advantage of it."