(Editor's Note: The following question-and-answer session with rookie safety Cody Grimm first appeared in a weekly game preview that is delivered each week to members of the One Buc Club, exclusively. The weekly preview also contains an in-depth look at that weekend's matchup, with injury updates, players who are on hot streaks and players who are due, statistical trends that could affect the game's outcome, five opponents to keep an eye on, and more. The One Buc Club is free and open to all fans; to learn more and to sign up, please click here.)
When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took on the Carolina Panthers last Sunday at Raymond James Stadium, seven rookies started for the pewter and red, and five more NFL newcomers saw action at various points in the game.
Among the 12 rookies that saw snaps that Sunday for the Buccaneers were a pair of big-play receivers, a former defensive end turned fullback and a starting guard who wasn't even with the team in training camp. However, perhaps the biggest surprise among those 12, at least in terms of the size of his role, was Cody Grimm, a seventh-round pick in April who has been the team's starting free safety since Week Three.
The son of Russ Grimm, the Arizona Cardinals' assistant head coach who was recently inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the young Buccaneer certainly has the bloodlines and background that would suggest a shot at NFL success. But after a productive collegiate career as a linebacker at Virginia Tech, Grimm lasted until the final round of the 2010 NFL Draft before the Bucs snapped him up.
For seventh-rounders, surviving roster cuts and making the final 53-man roster can be a tall task, but not only did Grimm impress his coaches and teammates enough to make the opening day squad, he positioned himself squarely behind incumbent starter Tanard Jackson on the depth chart.
When Jackson was lost for the season due to a suspension, Grimm's rapid rise continued, as he suddenly found himself starting in the NFL. At no point has Grimm seemed overwhelmed with his newfound responsibilities, however, and he has even made some of the team's biggest defensive plays of the season.
As a seventh-round pick I imagine you reported to training camp thinking your first job was just to make the 53-man roster. Then, three weeks into the season, you're starting. Could you have imagined things would happen so quickly?
"No, definitely not. Everything kind of got fast-forwarded on me when we lost T-Jack [Tanard Jackson]. It's going smoothly now though. It took a couple weeks to really get comfortable out there and adjusted, but everything's going well now."
Have you found any part of that quick rise overwhelming? What has helped you handle being put into such an important role so fast?
"No, because to tell you the truth, even when you're not starting, you've still got to come out here and practice every day, get a bunch a reps. As a backup, you're only one snap away, so I had that mentality since I came here and it really hasn't been overwhelming or changed very much since I got the starting job. I just get more snaps on Sunday. You've got to know this is your job now. Whether you're scout team or starting, you should know everything.
"From being around the game a long time and having my dad coaching, I know how much time and effort you have to put in to be successful. Also, some of the older guys in the room like Ronde [Barber] and some of the other guys that have got a lot of snaps helped me out, told me what to expect."
Did the draft unfold as you expected? Did you think you might go higher than the seventh round? How much did that matter to you?
"I heard pretty much anywhere from fifth round to free agent, so I expected somewhere in that area. It was pretty cool. I had some friends over and we were just hanging out on the couch and I got a call. It was exciting."
Against Carolina, you were one of seven rookies who started, and five others saw playing time. Usually, that would indicate a team in a major rebuilding process but you guys won that game and are actually contending in 2010. Can a team with this many young players in critical roles hang in the race until the end?
"Yeah, I definitely think so. We've been able to go 5-3 the first half of the season with playing so many young people, and we should only be able to improve the more snaps we get under our belt."
Did you have any trouble making the transition from linebacker at Virginia Tech to safety in the pros? What kind of system were you in at Tech?
"We ran a 4-4. The run fits are different, as far as pass defense, but football is football. If you tackle and cover your zone, you'll be alright. The language they use in the DB room, picking up route concepts, that's a little bit different, but it's still football when it comes down to it. You've got a run gap and you've got a zone to cover."
You got a chance to play your father's team a few weeks ago, and even came away with bragging rights. How's that feel? Who was the rest of your family rooting for?
"I don't really know. They were split. Obviously they wanted me to play well, but they wanted my dad to win too. My little brother actually called and I asked him who he was cheering for. He said, 'The good thing is one of my teams will win this week,' which was true. It was fun. It was a little awkward seeing him over there coaching on the other sideline, but once the game got started it was pretty normal."
Obviously you play a position very different from the one your father played, but are there similarities in your approach to the game? What did you learn from him about playing football?
"The main thing I learned is a love of the game growing up. Having a dad in it helped. It really got me around it at a young age, and knowing how much time he put in into it to be successful when he played and coached really helped me out a lot. I knew in order to achieve everything I wanted that I'd have to study extra and work out extra hard, stay in the film room. So I'd say experiencing how much time he put into it has helped me be successful.
You and your father are obviously both very busy with your responsibilities with your respective teams, but do you still talk to him often during the season? And do you talk football?
"I talk to him a couple times a week and catch up, see what's going on and what's new in his life. We pretty much know what's going on with each other's football team. Usually when we talk it's not even about football half the time."