Donald Penn said he frequently got caught with his pad level too high on Monday morning, and his footwork was a bit of a mess.
And, man, did it feel great.
Penn admitted to a little rustiness in his first practice with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers since June, but was clearly pleased to be back in action. The three weeks apart from his teammates (on the practice field at least) was a new experience for him, and not at all to his liking.
"It felt great to get back out there," said Penn after the two-hour session, the Bucs' first practice since breaking training camp last Thursday. "I've never really missed practice before in my career, so this was a first. I was really itching to get back, to get back out there with the guys, get the pads back on and get a feel for everything. It felt really good."
Penn pointed out his own mistakes on Monday because he knows they won't last long. Following the team's advice, he took an extra week to regain strength in his legs even after his calf injury was deemed fully healed. That meant he was ready to dive fully back into action at the start of the week and expects to see playing time this coming Friday against New England. Not only has the injury healed, but he says his rehab process, particularly dragging a sled as he walked, has his legs as strong as they've ever been.
"When you play as much football as I have, getting thrown in there shouldn't be a problem," said Penn about the decision to hit the ground running. "There's still a lot of stuff I've got to get fixed. I have a lot of catching up to do. I think I'm good on protections and the run plays; I've been studying in the meetings and stuff. It's just about getting my footwork right. But it felt good to get some of the cobwebs off. It's great to be out here with these guys. They set a standard and now I've got to run and catch up."
Penn was particularly impressed with how well fourth-year man Demar Dotson, who is talented but relatively inexperienced, handled the all-important left tackle position while he was out.
"I kept teasing him: 'You trying to take my job?'" said Penn. "He was doing so well. He came out here and answered the call and did a great job. He already had the playbook down but I tried to help him with some of the technique stuff. He came in and did a good job, I mean a great job, and that's what you're supposed to do. I don't think the coach could ask for anything more from a person to come in and fill in at a prominent position like that and do as well as he did."