Gerald McCoy got that feeling last Friday night, one he hadn't experienced in almost exactly 10 months. It was familiar, and welcome, even if it was a little hard to describe.
"You always know you love something when you get…," said McCoy, trailing off for a second as his hands expressed a rising tide of emotion in his gut. Then he got it: "When it electrifies you."
What McCoy loves, of course, is playing the game of football, something he wasn't able to do much of last fall after suffering a biceps injury in Game Five of the season at San Francisco. He returned briefly for a few snaps against New Orleans four weeks later but otherwise spent the remainder of the season on injured reserve. The months that followed were spent rehabbing and then learning a new defense and a new way of doing business under first-year Head Coach Greg Schiano.
On Friday night in Miami, McCoy was back in action for the first time since his injury, and he wasn't hard to pick out. The Buccaneers' defense was disruptive early in its 20-7 win over the Dolphins, pitching a shutout up to halftime and making it particularly hard for the Dolphins to run the ball (19 yards on eight first-half carries). McCoy made his way into the Miami backfield on several occasions, which is exactly what Schiano's defense needs from the three-technique tackle position that the former Oklahoma star plays.
McCoy finished with one tackle and one tackle for loss, but could have had more. Schiano said afterward that the Bucs had quite a few mistakes to clean up, despite winning pretty handily, and McCoy knows specifically what that means for him.
"That's just me doing what I'm coached to do – get in the backfield and disrupt the offense," said McCoy of his multiple pressures. "It was definitely rusty for me. Reggie [Bush] got away from me a few times; I could have had him the backfield at least three times. But that's just rust and as the preseason goes on and the season goes on, that will be all gone."
McCoy's a little rustier than some, of course, because he had that longer layoff after his injury. But he's shown enough on the practice field, and in the preseason opener, to convince Schiano that he's got the right man in that all-important three-technique spot.
"I think he's performed very well," said Schiano. "I think he's got some elite ability. He's had a bad stretch, a bad run [of injury luck], and I'm hoping that's all behind him because he's key, key to our defense."