Erik Lorig played in 25 games during his first two seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, recording seven catches for 63 yards along the way. On Sunday, in the season-opener of his third NFL campaign, Lorig caught four passes to tie for the Buccaneers' team lead.
Safe to say, the Carolina Panthers didn't see that coming.
Lorig's 21 receiving yards may not have turned the tide in the Buccaneers' 16-10 win over the Panthers, but all four of his catches came on scoring drives and the first two proved quite significant in the scripted, game-opening touchdown march. The tight end-turned defensive end-turned fullback-turned...well, whatever his role is in a Buccaneer offense that is still revealing itself…definitely enjoyed being a secret weapon on Sunday.
"I felt like I've always had the tight end stuff going on, since high school and at Stanford for a few years, and I've always wanted to let that resurface," he said. "I feel like it was a good step towards that.
I'd like to think that what I brought to the game was helpful."
Lorig went to Stanford to play tight end but later converted to defensive end, and proved promising enough at that position that Tampa Bay drafted him in the seventh round in 2009. Truth be told, the Bucs had in the back of their mind that Lorig could help in another way if he didn't crack the defensive line rotation. To start his rookie season, he was briefly placed on the practice squad, where he began a rapid transformation back to offense and a somewhat undefined fullback/tight end/H-back role.
Over the next two seasons, Lorig settled in at fullback and actually got quite a bit of playing time thanks to a couple injuries to veteran Earnest Graham. In 2011, Lorig was effectively the team's starting fullback, and he easily held off challenges from rookies Cody Johnson and Robert Hughes in training camp this year. Obviously, he has value to the team strictly due to his lead blocking, but that might not be the end of his assignment in 2012.
Lorig has "leaned out," as he describes it, from his initial defensive end weight of 275 in Tampa to around 250 very solid pounds, but he is still a load to tackle in the open field. He has sure hands from his tight end training and good speed for the position from his pass-rushing days. And, like the rest of the Buccaneers' attack in the early days of the Greg Schiano/Mike Sullivan era, he has the advantage of anonymity.
"I think we had the benefit of having a new offense and in the preseason not showing everything we had," said Lorig of the win over Carolina. "So I think the element of surprise in terms of the game plan was definitely helpful."