After six seasons in the background, Pete Pierson is the Bucs' starting left tackle
by Andrew Mason, NFL.com
For six seasons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive lineman Pete Pierson was the epitome of the dependable backup. He filled in at both tackle spots, pitched in on special teams, and proved himself an invaluable — if overlooked — member of an emerging squad.
But following Paul Gruber's season-ending broken leg last Jan. 2 and Jason Odom's re-aggravated back injury last month, Pierson is in the spotlight. The University of Washington product made his first Kickoff Weekend start — and just his third career regular-season start — at left tackle in the Bucs' 21-16 win over the New England Patriots.
Following the win, NFL.com's Andrew Mason sat down with Pierson, a man whose seniority on the Bucs' roster is exceeded only by three men — safety John Lynch, defensive end Chidi Ahanotu and tight end Dave Moore.
How does it feel to get that first game as the first-stringer under your belt? "It feels good. It felt like I was under the microscope a little bit this year. As long as we get games behind us and continue to perform well, I think that's going to take a little bit of tension off of me."
How are you fitting into the new offensive scheme? "I'm fitting in well. I like it a lot. We're all learning things about it; we're all at the same level and the team's coming together well; we've just got to continue to progress week after week."
Being a "utility" lineman over the years, what skills do you feel you'll bring now that you're set as the starter? "I gained a perspective on how the game flows. Sitting on the sideline, ideally, it's not where you want to be, but you've got to learn what you can from it and I was lucky enough to play behind a big-time veteran like Paul Gruber, who taught me a lot and really helped ease the transition."
There's been word floating around about Paul's future, that he might retire. Have you talked to him recently? "He called me a couple of days ago. I don't want to confirm anything, but that's pretty much where his heart's going right now."
How do you feel about that personally? "I really didn't think about it that much. Whatever happened with Gruber was out of my control, out of my hands, and once I got the word that I was the starter, I just wanted keep my mind on my job."
A lot of offensive linemen have come through the door for the Bucs the last six years, and you've now outlasted them all. Do you feel like a survivor? "A lot of people have come through the door. I feel like I'm a survivor, though. A lot of things are out of your hands, and sometimes it takes a little bit of fortunateness to stay on the ballclub as long as I have and I feel that I am very fortunate. I try to work hard, and I think the organization knows me as a hard-working guy. If they need me, I'm there for them."
Are the best days of your career yet to come? "Absolutely — now that I've got the opportunity."