WR Derek McCoy earned a starting job with the Hamburg Sea Devils
The NFL Europe League is about to start, and most of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' allocated players will be starting right along with it.
If the Buccaneers hoped to get significant playing time for the 10 players they allocated to the NFLEL this spring, they would have to be pleased with the results of training camp. Six of those 10 players are listed as starters for their respective teams heading into the first weekend of play, eight if one includes Hamburg Sea Devils kicker Todd France and Berlin Thunder punter Brian Simnjanovski.
In Cologne, Buccaneer allocates will comprise roughly a quarter of the Centurions' defense. Delbert Cowsette and Brian Save are the starting tackles in Cologne's 4-3 defensive front, while Kalvin Pearson will patrol the secondary as the starting strong safety.
Derek McCoy, France's teammate in Hamburg will be one of the Sea Devils' starting receivers. In Rhein, the Fire will depend on the Bucs' Blue Adams to man the critical left cornerback slot.
And in Frankfurt, Akili Smith, the former NFL first-rounder signed by Tampa Bay in February, is listed as the starter on the Galaxy's depth chart, though he will continue to get competition for the job from Kevin Eakin and B.J. Symons. Smith's progress is likely to be one of the top storylines out of Europe this spring.
Smith, who last started for the Cincinnati Bengals in October of 2002, is definitely looking forward to the opportunity to prove himself again.
"A lot of people have not seen me play for over two years now, so this will be an opportunity for me to remind them what I can do," he said. "I plan on getting Frankfurt to a World Bowl. That's why we're here. Everything else is nice but this is a team that is used to success and the World Bowl is definitely in my plans.
The only Buccaneers not expected to be in opening-day starting lineups are Cologne guard Mitch White, who is receiving treatment for an undisclosed injury, and Hamburg WR Terrance Metcalf, who still may see significant playing time in the Sea Devils' base offense, which employs three receivers.
All of these Bucs and their hundreds of NFL peers overseas will begin play on Saturday, when the 2005 NFL Europe season begins with a trio of games. Most of Tampa Bay's allocates will be together in Cologne, where the Sea Devils will be visiting the Centurions. Elsewhere, Berlin and Frankfurt will play a rematch of last year's title game, World Bowl XII, while Rhein visits Amsterdam.
Buccaneers.com will provide weekly coverage of the work of Buc-allocated players in Europe this spring, beginning with this weekend's games. Most of the league's games will be aired on either DirecTV or the NFL Network, but there will also be four late-season broadcasts on FOX, including World Bowl XIII on June 11.
Fans can even play an NFL Europe version of fantasy football. Click here for more details.