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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Making the Jump

Notes: The Bucs are trying to tame Larry Brackins’ raw talents as he moves up several levels in competition…Plus, more OTAs on tap and a message from Dexter Jackson to student athletes


The Buccaneers like WR Larry Brackins' size and leaping ability

Last week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' veteran players joined the team's new rookie class on the practice field for the first time. That meant, for the second time in a month, Larry Brackins experienced a huge jump in the level of competition.

About six months ago, Brackins was still playing against community college opponents, standing out thanks to his impressive physical talents but not giving NFL scouts much to work with in terms of a professional projection. After being drafted by the Buccaneers in the sixth round in April, Brackins reported to Tampa the following weekend and for the first time competed against players from the top level of college talent.

Then, last week and again this week as the Bucs work through another three-day stretch of organized team activity (OTA) days, it was time to share the field with corners and safeties who have proven themselves on the highest level of play.

Here in the early stages of that steep learning curve, the Bucs' basic opinion of Brackins hasn't changed a bit: Raw but with tremendous talent that, if tamed, could make him a productive player in the NFL.

"If we can train this wild horse – that's kind of what I refer to him as – who knows?" said Head Coach Jon Gruden at the end of last week's OTA experience. "You might have a stallion there, you might have a guy who can really do a lot of great things. He's got a long way to go, but he's a big man who can run and jump, he's tough and he wants to be good."

There are no stats to evaluate in May, and Brackins is one of dozens of new players trying to learn the Buccaneers' complicated offense. It may be difficult to gauge Brackins' progress until well into training camp, but Gruden knows that the interest level remains very high in a player who has made that rare jump from a community college into the NFL Draft.

"Everybody's going to keep asking about Larry because he's from Pearl River [Community College], and his level of competition and his background," Gruden acknowledged. "Let's be honest, it's going to be a factor to a degree. He just doesn't have as much to draw from as these other ones.

"But I like Larry. He's taking a lot of coaching, hard coaching from Richard Mann right now. I'll tell you what, the big fellow got up [in practice] and made a hell of a catch. He made a big splash play. That's what he does."

Brackins is intriguing because of his size (6-4, 205), speed and leaping ability. That combination is very popular in the NFL right now, as seen by the very high picks spent in recent years on such players as Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Braylon Edwards, Mike Williams and Charles Rogers. But while those players, proven producers at such big college programs as Miami and USC, were or will be pushed immediately into significant roles, Brackins faces the lengthier road usually ahead of later-round picks. As most players in that position find, it is very helpful to find a role on special teams.

Gruden agreed that Brackins' talents could be useful in the kicking game, and hoped that all of the young receivers would consider that part of the game a priority.

"They're all going to get a look on special teams," said Gruden. "We need some help there, too. Hopefully, we can get something out of our receiving corps on special teams; that's been a problem for us in the past few years."


OTAs Continue

The Bucs will spend three more of their 14 allotted OTA days this week, practicing once each on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Those three count as days 7-9; the team used three of their OTA days early in April, before the draft, then another three last week.

The Bucs are allowed only one mandatory full-team mini-camp during the offseason. For the second consecutive year, they have arranged the schedule to put that one camp at the very end of their 14-week offseason program. Tampa Bay's mandatory mini-camp will run from June 21-23, the latest scheduled mini-camp among all 32 NFL teams.

Roughly half of the 32 teams have already held their allotted camps (teams with new head coaches are allowed two mandatory camps during the offseason). The other half held a rookie camp shortly after the draft and will work again some time in late May or early June. All teams get 14 organized team activity days, but those must be voluntary and there are specific limits as to what a team can do on and off the field. For instance, there is no contact allowed and one-on-one drills are prohibited.

The final day of the Bucs' mini-camp will be the last day of the entire offseason program. Players and coaches will then take an extended break before reporting to training camp in the final days of July.


Jackson Shares Advice with Young Athletes

Safety Dexter Jackson recently shared in the honoring of high school athletes throughout Hillsborough County, as he served as the keynote speaker at the Hillsborough County Parade of Athletes, presented by The Tampa Tribune.

Jackson took the opportunity to share a bit of advice with the student-athletes regarding their conduct as citizens. The Super Bowl XXXVII MVP told the young men and women to always remember the Three M's – mother, media and morals – before choosing a course of action.

How does one apply the Three M's? Consider this: If a certain action would cause your mother to not be proud of you, or if it land you on the front page of the newspaper, or if your morals would be violated, then it's probably not a good idea to take part in that activity. Jackson also told the students to never look down on anyone, no matter how high you make it up the ladder. If you ever fall off the ladder, Jackson reminded them, you will have to pass all those people when you try to climb back up.

After Jackson's speech, awards were given to exceptional athletes and coaches from around the Bay area, including All-County teams and the Male and Female Athletes of the Year.

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