Running back Derrick Ward is expecting a big season in 2010, for himself and the Buccaneers' offense, and he plans to be a driving force in making sure those expectations are met.
"[I want to] be more of a team leader," said Ward on Tuesday after the Buccaneers' second OTA practice of the week. "I kind of took a step back and looked at it from an outside perspective. I need to be more vocal in the locker room. I need to be more vocal on the field. Hopefully the guys will see how hard I work and just follow my lead.
"I just had to take a step back and look at the surroundings and look at myself, take a look at myself and re-evaluate myself. This year I'm coming back stronger and healthier than ever. Like I said, my work ethic is to a tee and I'm just ready to go."
Ward did this bit of self-evaluation early in the 2010 offseason and has been following it up by deed ever since. On Tuesday, he discussed his spring work following a sweaty, two-hour OTA practice with the rest of the team.
"I took a couple weeks off and then I hit it hard," said Ward. "I think my conditioning is right where it needs to be right now and I only have time to get better from now 'til training camp. I'm healthy, 100 percent, this is the best I've felt in a few offseasons so I'm just ready to go.
"It's a new year, we've got nice young guys ready to play and it's more energetic this year. This is a whole brand new year and we're 0-0 right now. We're in first place. We're just going to go out there and work our hardest this year and hopefully come out with a great season."
Along with fellow New York Giants Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, Ward proved in 2008 that multiple backs can have good individual outputs when the offense as a whole is operating as it is supposed to. The Buccaneers believe that can happen in Tampa in 2010, too. If so, Ward is likely to finish with numbers close to his '08 vintage: 1,025 yards, 5.6 yards per carry and 41 receptions. He'll do it, however, within the framework of achieving team success.
"I'm a ballplayer, so I want to be on field, I want to get the carries, I want to be able to contribute and help this team win," said Ward. "I saw us make strides throughout the whole year [in 2009], so this year is new and hopefully I'll be able to contribute more, we'll get on a winning track and everything will work out in the end."
Like Ward, third-year guard Jeremy Zuttah got in his first OTA practice on Tuesday after missing the opener the day before, both absences the team had been expecting. In Zuttah's case, he was attending the graduation ceremony of someone close to him.
The Bucs currently have 89 players on the roster (the offseason limit is 80 but the nine unsigned draft choices don't count against that limit until they are under contract), and virtually all of them were at team headquarters on Tuesday. A handful of players, such as Zuttah's fellow starting guard Davin Joseph, are currently watching from the sideline due to minor injury situations but Head Coach Raheem Morris has been thrilled with the turnout overall, particularly since these workouts are voluntary.
The Bucs have one more OTA this week, on Wednesday morning, and then will return to the base offseason training program before starting up another round of OTAs just after Memorial Day. Three weeks of these practices will funnel the team right into it's three-day mandatory mini-camp, beginning on Monday, June 21.
Bucs Add DE Powell
Two years after he was originally drafted by the Denver Broncos in the fifth round, defensive Carlton Powell will get another chance to make a regular-season NFL roster for the first time. The Buccaneers signed Powell as a free agent on Tuesday, releasing rookie cornerback Darrell Pasco to make room on the offseason roster.
Powell missed a chance to make the Broncos' 53-man roster as a rookie when he suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in July of 2008. He remained with the Broncos the following summer but was waived in the final roster cutdown. Powell then spent two weeks in October on the Cleveland Browns' practice squad before returning to Denver in November to serve on the Broncos' practice squad.
The 6-2, 312-pound Powell was drafted 148th overall in 2008 after he played in 52 games with 32 starts at Virginia Tech, amassing 107 tackles, 6.5 sacks, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. As a senior, he helped the Hokies' defense rank third in the nation in points allowed and fourth in yards allowed, contributing 39 tackles and 3.5 sacks. Powell played his prep ball in Chesapeake, Virginia.
Pasco signed with the Buccaneers on May 3, 2010 as an undrafted free agent out of Georgia Southern. The Clearwater native was one of five players who performed well enough on tryout contracts during the team's rookie mini-camp to earn a spot on the offseason roster