While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers eased off on the throttle during their bye week, the Jeremy Trueblood-to-right-guard story simultaneously picked up steam. On Wednesday of the team's post-bye week of work in preparation for the Kansas City Chiefs, Trueblood did indeed work at that new position on the practice field, including a significant number of snaps with the first-team offense.
Head Coach Greg Schiano did not name Trueblood the new starter at right guard on Wednesday, but he also did not squash the story. Schiano said Trueblood's work with the first team in the opening drills of practice was not an indication that the veteran lineman had won the job, but did indicate that the long-time offensive tackle is capable of making a quick transition to the inside.
"Jeremy is a very intelligent football player who is very experienced so I think he has a much better chance of grasping things in a short amount of time," said Schiano. "His best buddy Davin [Joseph] has played next to him at guard for a long time so different scheme yes, but they work together on so many different things. I think he has a good understanding, I think they all do. It's just going to be a matter of who we think the best choice is for this week. Again, that's what we are trying to do: win this game against Kansas City."
Trueblood was supposed to begin working on that transition Monday but was sidelined during the Bucs' bonus practice by a stomach illness. That's the reason he was plugged into right guard early on Wednesday, in an attempt to catch him up in the competition. There won't necessarily be a change – incumbent Ted Larsen is definitely still a strong option – but Trueblood, Cody Wallace and perhaps tackle Jamon Meredith are all considered possibilities to start.
Trueblood is very much a straight-shooter, an intense competitor who wants to start but doesn't expect anything to be handed to him. He began the season as the team's right tackle, a position he had manned for most of the last six seasons for Tampa Bay, but was replaced in Week Two by fourth-year man Demar Dotson. Dotson has apparently settled in well on the edge, which means Trueblood's best chance to recapture playing time will be to make this move. The right guard spot has not been as strong as expected since the preseason loss of Pro Bowler Davin Joseph to injured reserve.
"I'm just going to put in the work and see what happens," said Trueblood. "There's a lot to do between then and now but nothing's set in stone. I'm just working as hard as I can.
"That's my job. I'm paid to play football, so if I have to – I don't want to do this – but if I have to be a scout-team guy I'll be a scout-team guy. If I have to be a guard, I'll be a guard. If I've got to be a tackle, I've got to be a tackle. I'm paid by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to play football, so that's what I'm going to do."
Trueblood agrees that his years playing next to Joseph (they were the Bucs' first and second-round draft picks in 2006) have allowed him to absorb some ideas and techniques for the guard position, which he now intends to apply.
"I've played a lot of years next to one of the best guards in the NFL, so I've picked up on a lot of things he's done over the years and tried to do it," said Trueblood. "Obviously, I can't do it just like he does it, but just some of the little things he does, I'm trying to do. So it's been pretty easy because of that – I mean, it's not easy, but in my head it is. Now I've got to translate it to my body. It's just a work in process."
Trueblood must also apply some technique to the issue of a 6-8 linemen playing on the inside. Typically, the taller blockers are on the edges, and height on the inside can be seen as a detriment to winning the snap-by-snap battle of having the lower pad level. Trueblood is confident he can play the position despite his height.
"I've seen guys this tall do it, maybe an inch or two shorter than me," he said. "It's all about technique, so as long as I can master the technique then I'll have a good shot."
Whether or not Trueblood will be given his shot at guard, a position he hasn't tried since his high school days in Indiana, remains to be seen. Schiano and his staff are not yet ready to reveal that decision, if it has been made yet. For his part, Trueblood is simply trying to demonstrate that the idea can work.
"There are certain times you're trying to put a square peg in a round hole and that may not work," said Schiano. "Maybe we're doing that; that's what we are trying to examining right now and make sure what the best choice is. Certainly the best choice is on the I.R. [injured reserve] so now we have to find the next best choice and that's what we are trying to do."