WR Joey Galloway knows that big plays sometimes come from short passes
Joey Galloway, as Tampa Bay Buccaneer fans will soon discover and team scouts already knew, is more than a one-dimensional player.
Make no mistake – that dimension is there, and it defines him in many ways. Galloway's name has been synonomous with speed in the NFL for almost a decade, and he contends that he is as fast now as he was as a 1,000-yard rookie in 1995.
But if Galloway was nothing but speed he might be little more than Renaldo Nehemiah – he of the of 43 career catches in his second career – and the Bucs would surely not have jumped over any high hurdles to get him.
This may be why Bucs Head Coach Jon Gruden has made a point of praising Galloway's toughness and professional route-running after the team's various offseason workouts and mini-camps. Indeed, those in attendance at Buccaneer practices this spring and summer saw a surprisingly compact receiver who was just as likely to catch a short pass underneath as streak past a safety.
And those who spoke to Galloway after practice met an intelligent and suprisingly unassuming player who obviously believed in being prepared. In fact, after the Bucs sent Keyshawn Johnson to Dallas and worked hard on a renegotiated deal to get Galloway, the former Cowboy and Seattle Seahawk picked up Gruden's book, "Do You Love Football?!" in order to get a read on his new coach.
"I knew what everyone else knew; I saw the snarl on the sideline," said Galloway. "I saw him on TV. I just finished reading his book: interesting. But he is everything that I expected and more."
Both men obviously feel that way. Galloway repeatedly caught deep balls behind the defense during the Bucs' late-June mini-camp, and while that carries no guarantees in terms of translating into real-game success, it was certainly encouraging. The man who has restored some potency to the Bucs' passing attack – Tampa Bay ranked sixth in the league in 2003, the team's best finish ever – seems genuinely charged with the idea of thinking up new ways to utilize a weapon of Galloway's sort.
"Galloway gets down the field in a hurry," said Gruden after the recent mini-camp. "He's finishing plays, he's having fun."
That he is. Despite several opportunities to take parting shots at Dallas or Seattle, Galloway has maintained that he thoroughly enjoyed his four and five-year stays in those two spots. Still, he is clearly looking forward to what could be a new up-spike in his career in Tampa.
"It's exciting, especially for a receiver," said Galloway of playing for the current Buccaneers. "I love Dallas. I had a great time in Dallas. When they talked about me leaving Dallas and I found out I was coming to Tampa, I was pleased.
"To have the chance to play for Coach Gruden, as a receiver, I am extremely excited about that. I am going to make myself available and work extremely hard and hopefully together we can be extremely successful."
With 434 career receptions for 6,798 yards and 49 touchdowns, Galloway has already had a successful career. He has three 1,000-yard seasons on his resume (all with Seattle from 1995-98) and a 900-yard campaign as recently as 2002. Even when he caught 'only' 34 passes in Dallas' 17th-ranked passing attack last year, Galloway led the NFL with an average of 19.8 yards per reception.
The question – already all but answered in the minds of the Bucs' coaches – is whether Galloway can succeed as the deep threat the team has been missing for so long. Tampa Bay actually had a decent amount of long-ball success in 2003, with six completions of over 50 yards and four over 70, but that doesn't necessarily mean it was considered a threat by Buc opponents last year. More worry about getting burned deep could lead Tampa Bay foes to soften their run defenses in 2004.
"I think it's no secret that I can run and it's no secret that we want to stretch the middle and go deep and we've had some success with that," said Galloway. "Coach Gruden has done a great job with drawing up plays and matchups and getting things going.
"I think my role will change at times. I will be the deep guy, the stretch guy, but I think along with that just be successful at going deep. Sometimes you have to go short, you have to catch them underneath and try to make great big plays. I am prepared to do whatever they ask me to do."
Not that the whole thing has been a walk in the park for Galloway since his arrival shortly after the Bucs-'Boys trade on March 19. Gruden's system works…and it takes work. Many of the options in the playbook involve more moving around before the snap than most of us do before 8:00 a.m., especially for the receivers. Maybe Galloway chose the wrong Gruden tome after the trade, but then Tampa Bay's playbook wasn't available at the bookstore.
"It's difficult and it takes time," Galloway admitted. "There have been times we have shifted so much that when we got done shifting, I forgot the play. This offense is probably as complex of an offense as I have been around."
Fortunately, as that early choice of reading material suggested, Galloway can be counted on to do whatever is necessary to be prepared. As Buccaneer players and coaches catch their last bit of vacation before training camp, the Bucs' new speed reader is confident he has put himself in position to succeed.
"Going into camp, I feel pretty good," he said. "I have a lot to learn, a lot of work to do, but I have a pretty good grasp of what we are trying to accomplish right now."