Former Boston College offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus was drafted by the Detroit Lions one year before the team spent the first-overall pick on franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford. After five years in Detroit, Cherilus signed a free agent deal with the Indianapolis Colts, one year after that team spent the first-overall pick on franchise quarterback Andrew Luck.
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Now Cherilus has moved on to his third NFL team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and he arrives in the same year the team spent the first-overall pick on franchise-quarterback-to-be Jameis Winston. You could say that Cherilus finally got his timing exactly right – and he joked about that three-team coincidence in his first meeting with the Bay area press Tuesday – but it really nothing more than an interesting coincidence. What is not a total coincidence is Cherilus landing in Tampa, a place he started thinking about as a potential home way back in 2008.
That was Cherilus's year in the draft, and one of the private visits he made was to One Buccaneer Place, where he met with then-Head Coach Jon Gruden. By Cherilus's telling of the meeting, he was one of the team's most coveted targets. The Bucs had the 20th pick in the draft, which they eventually used on Kansas cornerback Aqib Talib, three spots after the Lions jumped on Cherilus.
"Yeah, I remember I spoke to Coach Gruden. He brought me in for a visit and he said, 'Hey, we understand … you might not be around when we get to pick but I can promise you one thing. If you're still there, guaranteed we'll grab you.' I was kind of selfishly hoping I was still kind of there, in a way, but you know how it goes. It wasn't my decision, it wasn't Coach Gruden's, so I was glad to get drafted where I got drafted. I went to Detroit, everything worked out fine. And I'm still here, so it's still working out fine."
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Cherilus said the Buccaneers also showed some preliminary interest when he hit free agency in 2013, when Greg Schiano was the head coach in Tampa, but dropped out early as the Colts moved in aggressively with a five-year deal. But Cherilus was good friends with former Buccaneers Davin Joseph and Jeremy Trueblood, both 2006 first round picks, and he never lost his interest in playing in Tampa.
"We got the phone call…I've always wanted to be here in a way," said Cherilus, who was also a teammate of Trueblood's at BC. "I had a chance to be here and I told my agent, 'Hey, I've been home for a couple of weeks, I know we're still going back and forth with a couple of teams.' I come here and it's my first time where I have a chance to play for a hot-weather team and play on grass the whole year. I told him, 'Hey, find a way to get it done,' and he got it done."
Even if it is just a coincidence, Cherilus is looking forward to teaming up with another young quarterback on the rise.
"The kid's young, great arm and everyone that I talked to had nothing but great things to say about the kid," said the veteran linemen of Winston. "First one in the building, last one to leave. They always talked about his work ethic and everything he's doing to help us win ballgames. I can only repeat what I'm hearing, but from what I'm seeing I think he has a chance to be pretty special.
"It starts with the quarterback. Especially when you're an O-Lineman it's good to know who you're blocking for and everything, knowing there's a young guy and can come here and help out. I don't know how yet, but if it's just by me doing what I'm supposed to do, then why not?"
What Cherilus may be doing a lot of is protecting Winston from the right edge of the line. The opportunity for him to finally head to Tampa came about in an unfortunate manner, as starting right tackle Demar Dotson suffered a knee injury in the preseason opener on Saturday night. The prognosis for Dotson's return hasn't yet been specifically laid out, but there's certainly a good chance his absence will stretch into the regular season. With little NFL experience among the rest of the team's corps of offensive tackles, the Bucs clearly felt the need to add a veteran presence. Cherilus won't be handed a job, but he will undoubtedly be one of the main contenders for Dotson's vacated spot.
"That's up for grabs, but you don't bring a player in like that unless you plan on him helping you out in some kind of way fairly soon," said Head Coach Lovie Smith. "Again, after one practice we'll kind of see, but we wouldn't bring him in unless we thought he could help us this year."
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The first job for Cherilus will be adapting to Dirk Koetter's offense, and that's something he got an early start on Tuesday morning. He knows he has a lot of work ahead of him.
"It's a different offense," said Cherilus. "It takes people probably years to master an offense like this. I'm just trying as hard as I can to learn as much as I can as soon as I can so I can be a part of this.
"I'm here to help out. It's up to the coaches, and it's my job to show up and spend extra time, even if I have to stay here late or come in early, like this morning showing up and spending as much time as I can with Coach Warhop trying to pick up the playbook as soon as I can."
Additional notes from Tuesday's practice:
Photos from the Bucs' training camp practice on August 18.
- The Buccaneers encountered rain again on Tuesday as they continued to work around an unusually wet summer in Tampa. Nearby lightning drove the team off the field in the middle of period nine, and heavy rain eventually made the fields too soggy to continue. The team was scheduled to work through 10 periods, so Tuesday's storm didn't rob them of a huge chunk of practice time.
"I thought we were able to get a lot of good work in," said Smith. "It's kind of Tampa – you have to deal with the elements from time to time. We missed some of our team stuff. We'll just add it to tomorrow's practice.
"In an ideal world it would be sunny outside and we would be able to practice. You just go with it. You adjust. That's why for me, I like dealing with adversity in training camp and different things you have to do. No issue really."
- If the Buccaneers were not dealing with the unfortunate news surrounding Dotson, the rapid ascension of rookie linebacker Kwon Alexander would likely be the top story in the final week of training camp. Alexander worked at middle linebacker with the first-team defense for the second day in a row, and he's legitimately battling for a chance to start. In fact, Smith said the team is going to start working Bruce Carter, the listed starter at MIKE linebacker, on the strong side as well. That starting spot is currently held by incumbent Danny Lansanah, who showed off his versatility in 2014 by starting at all three linebacker spots.
While it would be extremely surprising to see anyone but Lavonte David starting on the weak side, it appears as if an open competition for the other two spots is brewing between three players.
"It's not like we are displeased with what Bruce is doing," said Smith. "We just really like what Kwon has done. Bruce now, if you have seen him practice, he's working at the SAM linebacker position and he's fighting for a starting position there. We need all of our linebackers. For us, we have to get to the game to see exactly what everybody's best position is. For Bruce, that's it. Bruce is working hard just as he always has been. He's a big part of what we are going to do this year."
- Though Winston's preseason NFL debut on Saturday was certainly not flawless, the Buccaneers remain very pleased with his progression. On Tuesday, the rookie passer pointed to a specific aspect of his game that he believes is improving rapidly.
"I have to say the tempo of my drops," said Winston. "[Quarterbacks] Coach [Mike] Bajakian and Coach Koetter have been hammering down on me with just my foot quickness and just being able to get in the rhythm with my drops so I can be in sync with the routes."