This time a year ago, it seemed that J.R. Sweezy was in position to step in for the recently-retired Logan Mankins at left guard. But things didn't exactly go as planned. Sweezy, one of the Bucs' prized free agent signings, arrived in Tampa battling injuries and was unable to take the field at all during 2016.
READ: TAKEAWAYS FROM OTAs
Sweezy was able to participate with the team as the Bucs kicked off OTAs, lifting a weight off of his shoulders and giving Tampa Bay's offensive line a key piece to their puzzle.
"It was the hardest year of my life, just not to play football and be with a new team," Sweezy said. "It's pretty much the worst possible scenario. But it taught me a lot about patience and I got to spend a lot of time with my daughter, she was born last year. So it was a blessing in disguise. I'm just glad to be back."
The best photos from this week's OTA practices.
Sweezy played almost exclusively at right guard during his time in Seattle, his only team before signing with the Bucs. Tampa Bay had hoped to slot him in at left guard with Ali Marpet established on the right side, but with Marpet moving to center, Sweezy has been able to work with the first-team offensive line as the team's right guard. Kevin Pamphile has been working with the starters at left guard with Donovan Smith at left tackle and Demar Dotson at right tackle.
Despite Sweezy missing so much time, Head Coach Dirk Koetter is looking at the glass as being half-full.
"Many people have said that we didn't do anything to address our O-line," Koetter said. "I would flip that around and say one of our top free agent gets from the year before – he was out all last year, he's looked awesome out here. We talked about this the other day, J.R. on the offensive line and George Johnson – like I said, not sure what happened to him today – But that's two linemen that we're getting back that have shown they can play in this league. J.R. is off to a fast start."
ONE BUC MAILBAG: RARE OPPORTUNITIES
The five players who have made up the first-team offensive line during OTAs could very well be the starting lineup when Tampa Bay kicks off the regular season. It will take Sweezy some time to gel with his new teammates on the field, but for now he's just enjoying being back to work.
"It's just getting back into the swing of things is the hardest part right now, but again, just super excited to be back out here," he said.