Head Coach Jon Gruden admires how G Cosey Coleman has handled a difficult but ultimately successful offseason
With a weekend to spare before the first regular-season work week begins, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers used Saturday to hold a 'bonus practice.' The team convened in the morning for a few meetings and an hour-long practice, taking an early look at the Washington Redskins.
The Bucs haven't scheduled any bonus work for Sunday, however. The main business of that day will be to pare the roster from 72 players down to the regular-season active limit of 53.
The team could technically make its cuts at any time before 4:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, and it's likely that at least some if not most of the decisions have already been made. However, Head Coach Jon Gruden sees no point in jumping the gun; minds could still be changed and deals could still be made before the deadline.
"The telephone can ring," said Gruden. "You saw a trade yesterday between Green Bay and Oakland. There are telephones at work behind closed doors, so you've got to take that into account sometimes. We're no different that way than anyone else.
"We're still evaluating, not only our team but other teams. Possibilities of things happening always exist at this time of year. We'll make an announcement when we've had all the time expired on the clock, probably. We'll probably wait around until it's time for us to turn our papers in."
The Packers sent safety Marques Anderson to the Raiders on Friday, a move that almost certainly affected the potential cut lists of both teams. Last week, Tampa Bay traded guard Jason Whittle to the Giants, which almost certainly changed at least one entry on their first round of cuts.
Then, too, players could have made one last impression on the practice field on Saturday, or coaches could still be watching the film to decide between two candidates at a certain position. On one hand, it's difficult to ask those players who may be cut on Sunday to report to work on Saturday; on the other, it's a product of the competitive nature of the business.
Gruden knows this is a difficult weekend for a lot of players.
"You've got to have a little human nature about you and put yourself in someone else's shoes," he said. "Obviously, there are some guys who are concerned and a little apprehensive about the situation. You respect that, and at the same time it's [like this] around the league and around the country. There are a lot of people in different phases of life who are competing for positions and competing for jobs."
The Buccaneers will announce their roster moves on Sunday, most likely after the 4:00 p.m. ET deadline.
Line 'Em Up
The Bucs have decided on their starting offensive and defensive lines.
The offensive line that opens the season in Washington will be the same one that started the final preseason game in Houston: left tackle Derrick Deese, left guard Matt Stinchcomb, center John Wade, right guard Cosey Coleman and right tackle Todd Steussie.
Wade is a holdover from last year's starting line and he maintains his spot at the only position for which the team did not bring in veteran free agent competition. The tackles, while both newcomers to the team, have seemingly been in place for some time, even as Deese missed most of the preseason due to foot surgery.
The starting guards, however, were the product of several months worth of evaluation.
In the first two preseason games, Coleman started at left guard and Jason Whittle started at right guard. Stinchcomb was not available at the time, as he recovered from a foot sprain. The Bucs then went with their current combo for the last two games and, as mentioned above, Whittle was traded to the Giants. Earlier in the offseason, the Bucs had put Stinchcomb on the right side and another veteran free agent pickup, Matt O'Dwyer, on the left side. But O'Dwyer tore a pectoral muscle in an early-July weight-room session and has since been placed on the physically-unable-to-perform list.
If that sounds like a lot of maneuvering, it pales in comparison to the up-and-down 2004 Coleman has had. He began the year as an unrestricted free agent but didn't land the offer he was looking for and eventually re-signed with the Buccaneers. He then suffered an intestinal ailment that eventually required surgery and caused him to lose a good amount of weight. His summer was spent putting weight and muscle back on and getting in shape for training camp. He obviously went about that task with a vengeance, and it has paid off.
"I admire him a lot, coming back here," said Gruden. "We signed some linemen, made it competitive on him, and then the first thing that happens to him is he has major internal surgery. And here he comes out to training camp two or three weeks ahead of schedule; takes over at left guard when Stinchcomb goes down; when Stinchcomb gets back, he takes over at right guard.
"To be honest with you, he's played very well. Maybe the time off in April, May and June helped his knee. He's had some knee ailments over the last couple of years, but he appears more mobile and more effective. I admire that guy. He's had a good camp and we think he can have a real good season for us, too."
Coleman has played both guard positions as a Buccaneer, even starting the first five games of 2003 at left guard. Still, he is more comfortable on the right, which made it easy for the team to put Stinchcomb on the left, where he appears to be a better fit.
"[Stinchcomb] is an instinctive football player who has the athleticism to pull," said Gruden. "He's just more instinctive, more comfortable on the left side than he is on the right. And I think Cosey's natural position is on the right side, as well. To help both of those guys, we made that decision."
The Bucs also have settled on a starting defensive line, though there was a lot less maneuvering there. The team will start the front four it has had on the depth chart all along: right end Simeon Rice, nose tackle Chartric Darby, under tackle Anthony McFarland and left end Greg Spires. The team expects to use all of the defensive linemen it has eligible for a game, rotating them in liberally.