QB Bruce Gradkowski will soon be getting a lot of one-on-one instruction from Head Coach Jon Gruden
In three days, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will open training camp and Bruce Gradkowski will have to worry about route progressions, disguised zones and audible terminology. He won't have to worry about his contract.
Gradkowski, the prolific Toledo passer taken by the Buccaneers in the sixth round of the 2006 draft, signed his first NFL deal on Monday, which means he can report to camp in a timely fashion on Thursday. Practice begins Friday morning.
The Buccaneers drafted 10 players in April and now have four of them under contract. As often happens, the contracts are falling into place in roughly reverse of the order the players were drafted. Seventh-round tight end Tim Massaquoi, the Bucs' final pick, came in first with his deal last Wednesday and seventh-round cornerback Justin Phinisee and fifth-round defensive end Julian Jenkins followed suit on Friday.
To make room for Gradkowski on the 89-man camp roster, the Bucs released first-year fullback Robert Douglas. Draft picks do not count against the 80-man (plus exemptions) roster until they have signed a contract, but they cannot report to camp without a deal.
The six members of the 2006 draft class who still need finalized contracts are first-round guard Davin Joseph, second-round tackle Jeremy Trueblood, third-round wide receiver Maurice Stovall, fourth-round cornerback Alan Zemaitis, sixth-round tight end T.J. Williams and seventh-round defensive end Charles Bennett. The Buccaneers want to have all six signed by Thursday's reporting date and haven't suffered through an extended rookie holdout since 1994.
Gradkowski is one of five quarterbacks on the Bucs' roster, joining starter Chris Simms, veterans Jay Fiedler and Tim Rattay and first-year man Jared Allen. He was the 194th player selected overall in April's draft, the first of two Buc sixth-round picks.
At Toledo, Gradkowski was known for his leadership, poise and mobility. Above all, he showed remarkable precision; in fact, he is currently the most accurate passer in NCAA Division I-A history.
As a sophomore and junior, Gradkowski became the first quarterback in I-A history to complete over 70% of his passes in consecutive seasons (71.2% in 2003 and 70.2% in 2004), leading to a career mark of 68.2% that broke the record of 67.1% set by Tim Couch.
The co-MVP of the Mid-American Conference as a senior last fall, Gradkowski completed 207-of-332 passes (62.3%) for 2,469 yards and 29 touchdowns and also ran for 291 yards and four scores and 61 carries. He capped his career with an MVP performance in the GMAC Bowl, throwing for 298 yards and five touchdowns in Toledo's 45-13 win over UTEP.
Gradkowski hails from Pennsylvania and played in the same prep conference as such NFL greats as George Blanda, Joe Namath, Jim Kelly, Joe Montana and Dan Marino, surpassing all of their career marks.
Douglas signed with the Buccaneers in January after first entering the league as an undrafted free agent with Tennessee in the spring of 2005. The Memphis product spent several months on Tennessee's practice squad during the regular season.