CB Torrie Cox started camp hot and hasn't cooled down yet
If there is a buzz around Torrie Cox at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2006 training camp, he hasn't heard it yet.
Buccaneers Head Coach Jon Gruden will have approximately 80 men to keep an eye on during Friday night's preseason opener, and he's rarely one to single out specific players before a game. On Wednesday, however, he did allow that there have been a few practice-field standouts in camp who will be of special interest to him on Friday night.
The first name mentioned?
"I want to see Torrie Cox play," said Gruden. "I want to see him out there at cornerback. He has made a lot of plays here in training camp and I want to see if he can take that out on the grass."
Cox has been noticed in training camp this year, has generated some buzz, mostly because he's been around the football so frequently. But in the insular, scheduled-to-the-minute atmosphere of training camp, he doesn't seem to realize that his efforts have been recognized. He greets the news with a moment of mild surprise, then hunkers back down into his blinders-on approach.
"You probably hear more than I hear," said Cox. "I'm just out here trying to make plays, trying to help the team. I'm trying to help myself, too; I'm trying to get better so I can be on the field more. Whatever they choose to do is what will happen. I'm prepared to go with whatever they give me."
Cox can't quite be lumped in with the dozens of rookies and youngsters trying to make a good enough impression at training camp to earn a spot at the end of the roster. He's heading into his fourth season with the club and has, at various times, held significant roles as a nickel back, as a kick returner and as a kamikaze special-teamer. He's had plenty of time to make an impression on his employers, which can be good and bad. The Bucs obviously appreciate Cox's talents, or the former sixth-rounder would no longer be around; however, Cox also has to keep progressing in order to avoid being pigeonholed.
He certainly doesn't talk like one of the youngsters. Though not yet 26 years old, Cox says he can already feel the weight of time on his career.
"As you get older, you've got to make progress because you can start to feel your time ticking down," he said. "You've got to get out there and make plays now because it's now or never. This is my time to make plays. Every time I step on the field I have to be able to make a play, be around the ball. I want people to see that I was around the play every time. I'm developing a lot right now, improving my game every day."
Cox has had strong training camps before. As a rookie in 2003, he got off to a great start before suffering a season-ending knee injury in a preseason game at Miami. In 2004, he showed enough to get a crack at the nickel back job midway through the season, and over the last two years he has been given a few chances to return kickoffs.
This summer, he hit camp knowing the Bucs were returning their top three cornerbacks from last year – Ronde Barber, Brian Kelly and Juran Bolden – and their late-season standout on kickoff returns, Michael Pittman. In fact, the accepted storyline for the Buccaneers entering training camp was that they had virtually their entire starting lineups from 2005 intact. However, Gruden insisted that the competition was open at every spot, and Cox seems to have taken that to heart. Few players in camp have made plays more consistently.
Now Gruden wants to see Cox translate that to a game night, and the former University of Pittsburgh star surely hopes to comply. However, he is not putting too much pressure on himself to stand out in the Friday night lights. He figures his work on the practice field speaks for itself…and more importantly lays the foundation for him to perform well in a live game.
"Coming out here and just showing what you can do every day on the practice field is big," said Cox. "The games are just another step, a chance to show what you can do against another opponent instead of your teammates. You have to go out there and just play ball. You can't be out there worrying about, 'Okay, this has got to happen for me to make the team.' You've just got to go out there and have fun."
Cox will play on special teams, too. He is easily one of the team's best players on the kicking units, and that alone should make his shot at a roster spot more secure. Most young players acknowledge that special teams is their ticket to a place among the final 53. Cox doesn't necessarily disagree; he simply doesn't differentiate between that and his work on defense.
"Football is just football," he said. I love to play football, anything to do with it. It's all part of the game to me. And I love to win. I hate to lose. I can be kind of a sore loser at times. But anything I can do to help us win, count on me."