G Jeb Terry feels as if he has waited a long time for his first NFL start
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers continue to adjust to life without starting right guard and first-round selection Davin Joseph, and Friday Head Coach Jon Gruden said he has high hopes for guard Jeb Terry, who will be replacing Joseph in the lineup Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.
"I try not to expect anything but the best," said Gruden after the Buccaneers' morning practice. "I'm very confident in these guys. They've worked hard. Jeb has been here for a while, and we're really confident in him. He's a good player.
"Jeb Terry is a guy who has experience. He's a good solid football player. He's a physical man."
The 6-5, 311-pound Terry is entering his third year with the Buccaneers. During that span he has played in 20 regular season games and one postseason contest, primarily on special teams. A fifth-round draft choice in 2004, Terry was a three-year starter at guard at North Carolina, where he earned All-ACC honors.
For Terry, Sunday's opening-day start has been a long time in the making, and he plans on taking full advantage of the opportunity.
"I'm ready to play, and I'm glad it's finally here," Terry said. "It's been long. It's felt like forever. Now I've just got to out there and show what I can do."
Terry's job won't be an easy one. For starters, he'll be playing right guard after spending the majority of training camp and the preseason practicing at left guard. But it's a transition he says he's ready for, having played within the Buccaneers' system for the past two years.
"Coach has wanted to try people at different spots and see what everybody could do and work with different people on the team – work with first team, second team, things of that nature – and he thought it was best to move me around," he said. "I do what he says, and try to help out.
"You've just got to trust what the coaches do, and do it. Their job is to coach, and our job is to listen and do what they say to the best of our ability, so that's my mission."
It's a mission made no easier by the Buccaneers' opponent on Sunday. The Ravens run one of the most aggressive defensive schemes in the NFL. Last season their defense was fifth-best in the league despite losing middle linebacker Ray Lewis and strong safety Ed Reed for most of the year. Both of those defensive standouts are again healthy and join a host of versatile Baltimore defenders who allow defensive coordinator Rex Ryan to routinely switch from a 4-3 front to a 3-4 – and other more exotic variations – in an attempt to confuse offensive lines.
"They're a tough defense, definitely," Terry said. "But we face tough defenses every week, and each one presents a new challenge. You respect a defense for who they are and what they've done, and you've just got to get ready to play."
All indications point to Terry being more than ready.
"I'm really excited about it," Terry said. "I've been waiting two years for it, and I'm really fired up to get the chance."
Buccaneers starting middle linebacker Shelton Quarles, who is listed as questionable for the opener with a groin injury, practiced Friday and said he is optimistic about seeing action this Sunday against the Ravens.
"I though he did pretty good," Gruden said, commenting on the veteran linebacker after Friday's practice. "We'll see how he feels later today and tomorrow, but he was able to move around and practice some."
Last season, Quarles became the first player other than linebacker Derrick Brooks to lead the Buccaneers in tackles since 1997, finishing with a career-high 196 tackles – the second-highest total in team history.
Buenning Still Questionable
Still feeling the effects of an ankle injury he suffered in the Buccaneers' final preseason game against the Houston Texans, starting left guard Dan Buenning remains listed as questionable for Sunday's regular season opener though he managed to participate in some of Friday's practice.
"He's still questionable," Gruden said. "We'll just cross our fingers and hope he continues to improve. He's not at his best. That's for sure."