S Sabby Piscitelli could have made a significant impact on special teams, like his draftmate Quincy Black (58), but he lost most of his rookie season to a foot injury
The first four rounds of the 2007 NFL Draft yielded an impressive bounty for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Three starters in '07 and a fourth player who contributed heavily on special teams.
But the Buccaneers actually drafted five men in those first four rounds, as they owned the Indianapolis Colts' second-round pick, too. We'll get to Gaines Adams, Arron Sears, Tanard Jackson and Quincy Black (plus the rest of Tampa Bay's 2007 rookie class) on Wednesday. For now, let's look at that one early pick that didn't produce outsized numbers in his rookie season.
A bust amid all the studs? Hardly.
After spending the fourth overall pick on Adams and nabbing Sears early in the second stanza, the Bucs were ecstatic when Oregon State safety Sabby Piscitelli was still on the board when their other second-round pick rolled around. Three games and two special teams tackles later, they still are.
Piscitelli, an extremely athletic defensive back with a big-play reputation in the PAC-10, did nothing to disappoint the Buccaneers in his rookie season. He simply suffered the misfortune of a broken foot just three games into his career. Thus, while the rest of his class continued on to have an enormous collective impact for the NFC South champs, Piscitelli spent the fall rehabbing his foot and watching the games from afar.
Or, for some time, not watching.
The competitive Piscitelli missed being on the field so much that he had difficulty watching his team move on without him.
"I had sleepless nights for awhile," he said. "I couldn't even watch our games on Sunday for about a month or so. It was really hard. Even when I did watch it, I lost my appetite. The whole day was long. Every weekend, when Sunday rolled around, I was really quiet. It was better when I didn't watch the games."
Piscitelli worked hard to recover from his injury, and he found that the pain of being forced to the sideline slowly faded, too. He was on the field for the Bucs' NFC Wild Card game against the New York Giants and he enjoyed rooting on his teammates from that vantage point. However, the real gains from his rookie campaign – which was anything but a lost season despite his early move to injured reserve – came on Monday through Friday.
Even when game days were tough, Piscitelli still enjoyed the work week. He learned a lot from studying his teammates approach to the NFL game and the secrets to their success. And, in particular when it came to his fellow defensive backs, he saw a group of men performing at peak efficiency. The Buccaneers led the NFL in pass defense in 2007.
"I tried to turn a negative into a positive," he said. "I was able to sit back and watch other people, see how they get ready for a game, their preparations.
"Everybody in the secondary was playing so well this year. They all had incredible years – Flip [Jermaine Phillips] and T-Jack both played real well and of course Ronde [Barber] did what he does, and BK [Brian Kelly] and Phillip [Buchanon] had great years. They played great all year and you can't say anything bad about our secondary."
Of course, there's only so much watching a young football player can take. Piscitelli is itching to get back on the field, and says he is "full-go" as the offseason begins. He will be able to participate in the Bucs' 14-week offseason program, beginning in March, without limitations.
With Phillips enjoying a breakout season and Jackson playing like a seasoned veteran, Piscitelli likely would have continued to focus on special teams had he not broken his foot. Still, there are opportunities for big plays in the kicking game, too, and Piscitelli would appreciated a chance to contribute to the wonderful showing of the Class of '07. He thinks he'll get his chance, belatedly, in '08.
"Those are great players and they all had great years," he said of his fellow draftees. "I watched them closely and they all played very well. Now I'm excited to showcase my ability next year. I'll be starting from scratch; it will kind of be like my second rookie year. I'll try to go out and make a name for myself just like they did."