On Saturday, Amsterdam DT Matt Sweeney helped the Admirals upend the first-place Barcelona Dragons
With 15 defensive linemen fighting for roughly nine final roster spots in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' training camp this summer, the competition should be fierce. Though first-year player Matt Sweeney doesn't have the NFL resume of some of his competitors, he will have one thing come August that will set him apart.
Sweeney is one of seven Buccaneers who will report to training camp on July 29 with a full season of 2001 action already under his belt. Sweeney is playing in the spring and summer NFL Europe campaign, and he is proving to be an adept pass rusher and opportunistic ball-hawk.
Two weeks ago, Sweeney was named the NFLEL Defensive Player of the Week after his 35-yard touchdown return of a fumble helped the Amsterdam Admirals hold on to a close victory over the Frankfurt Galaxy. This Saturday, Sweeney may have topped his own performance as the Admirals shot down the previously-undefeated Barcelona Dragons, 33-13.
Despite the Dragons' unblemished record, it was the home team Admirals that dominated early, building a 17-0 lead by the end of the first quarter. Sweeney then made sure the Admirals' defense couldn't catch its breath, getting the ball right back for Amsterdam with a blind-side sack of quarterback Jarious Jackson that forced a fumble. The Admirals recovered at Barcelona's 29 and moved in easily for the touchdown.
Down 26-3 in the second half, Amsterdam actually rallied to 26-13 and had the ball and a chance to move within a touchdown when Sweeney again nixed the Dragons' drive. This time, it was DE Roshaun Matthews that sacked Jackson and forced a fumble, with Sweeney recovering the ball at the Amsterdam 49 and returning it 38 yards to the Barcelona 13. Three plays later, RB Spencer George scored the clinching touchdown.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Tony Dungy has called the NFL Europe experience a chance for inexperienced players to 'hone their skills in game situations.' While he was generally referring to players like Aaron Stecker, who had spent most of their first NFL season on a practice squad and had seen little to no game action, that thought is particularly applicable to Sweeney. The former University of Miami standout did not sign with any NFL team as a rookie, just joining the NFL in January when the Bucs picked him up.
Sweeney was the only Buccaneer-allocated player in action during the Dragons-Admirals tilt, as Barcelona WR Chris Daniels is not playing due to a neck injury. P Andrew Bayes, G Wilbert Brown and CB Terrance Parrish saw their Frankfurt Galaxy fall to 1-4 after a 34-25 loss to the Berlin Thunder on Saturday. On Sunday, the Rhein Fire and Scottish Claymores were scheduled to do battle, with WR Eddie Hardaway competing for Rhein and TE Randy Palmer and G Kendell Mack opposing him on the Claymores' sideline.