First-round G Davin Joseph will be on the field for the first practice of camp, as will his fellow 2006 draftees
Jon Gruden, head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is not one for predictions, preferring to emphasize that his team will, "get what it deserves." Gruden, however, isn't shy about this: He likes this particular team.
"These guys like football a lot, and I think they like each other and respect one another," said Gruden, paying the '06 Bucs a high compliment. "There's a lot of accountability on this football team, and that more than anything is what I'm proud about."
That extends even to the newest Buccaneers, the 2006 draft class. Those 10 men demonstrated their desire to help the team by reporting together in time for the beginning of training camp. By early Thursday evening, the Bucs and their '06 rookies were done with contract negotiations, capped off by deals for first-round guard Davin Joseph and third-round wide receiver Maurice Stovall.
Thus, even though they won't take their first practice snap until Friday morning, the Bucs have already had one very good day at camp.
"As Coach Gruden said earlier today, the Buccaneers look for players who love to play football," said General Manager Bruce Allen, who spent his day working with the player's agents to finalize the deals for Joseph, Stovall and Jeremy Trueblood. "That is obviously what we added to this team in April. These players proved to Coach Gruden that they are committed to the team's success by getting here on time and not missing any activities."
The Buccaneers haven't had an extended first-round holdout since 1994, but there has been some drama along the way. Last year, running back Cadillac Williams, the fifth overall pick, wasn't around on reporting day but was able to get a deal done in the dead of the night. Thanks in part to his own eagerness to get the full benefit of training camp, Williams was on the field a few hours later.
Paint Joseph with the same brush. Both he and Allen have said since draft weekend that the accomplished lineman from Oklahoma was intent on arriving at the start of camp.
The Bucs actually worked up nine deals over the last nine days, because sixth-round tight end T.J. Williams is in a less time-sensitive situation, for an unfortunate reason. Williams tore an Achilles tendon during the team's final workout of the offseason, a mini-camp practice on Thursday, June 22 and is destined for injured reserve. He will miss the entire season.
Earlier on Thursday, the Bucs signed Trueblood, the Boston College tackle selected in the second round.
The Bucs have brought 89 men to training camp, pushing past the NFL limit of 80 players thanks to nine exemptions earned by NFL Europe players this spring. Once they signed their deals, Joseph and Trueblood began to count against that 89-man limit, which means the team will have to make some further roster adjustments on Friday morning before the start of practice.
A full training camp certainly helped Williams make the most of his debut season, launching him to a team rookie-record 1,178 rushing yards and the NFL's Rookie of the Year award. The Bucs have similarly high hopes for Joseph, though he will face stiffer competition for a starting job. Joseph will initially work at right guard, where Sean Mahan started all 16 games in 2005, but he is capable of playing several positions along the line.
"I think the big thing with Davin is that he's a very versatile guy," said Gruden. "He can play either guard position and he could be a tackle. He's a big, strong man who has a lot of pride and a lot of ability. It will be very interesting to see how he competes in here at right guard."
The Bucs continued their recent success in getting their first-round pick into camp on time. The last top pick to miss an extended amount of training camp was quarterback Trent Dilfer, the sixth pick in the 1994 draft. As of early Thursday evening, only 10 of the 32 players drafted in the first round this past April had signed contracts, including Joseph.