TAMPA, FL — The Buccaneers came into Monday’s afternoon practice looking to show durability in their second straight day in pads. One man in particular was running back Jeff Demps.
The former Florida Gator and U.S. Olympian got a heavy workload in the running game and passing game today. This is his first full offseason and training camp since his senior season with the Gators in 2011. After Olympics, injuries, and multiple track competitions have kept him off the football field the past couple years, Demps finally got playing time with the Bucs in 2013. He spoke after practice claiming he’s closing in on full-time football shape.
“It’s coming along pretty good,” Demps said. “Today I was able to get a lot of reps, and I was trying to take advantage of it. Even if I’m gassed I’m just trying to get out there and make something happen.”
Demps has been placed in multiple roles at the beginning of camp, specifically in the backfield behind Doug Martin and on kickoff return. While he hasn’t been locked in to a position yet, he plans on making the most of each opportunity.
“I’m just kind of everywhere right now, just trying to get in where I fit in and whenever my number is called I’m just trying to get on the field and make something happen.”
While it is early in training camp, Demps has been catching the eye of head coach Lovie Smith. He hasn’t placed Demps in an ideal role yet, but understands the special qualities he brings to the running back position.
“Jeff seems to get noticed just about every day,” Smith said when addressing the after practice. “He brings something a little unique to the position, but we’ll see. When you have the title ‘fastest man in the NFL,’ you search for ways to do something with him.”
The most buzz made today was right tackle Demar Dotson scoring a touchdown on a fake field goal passing play. Lovie Smith was not only impressed by the play, but on Dotson’s overall progression at right tackle.
“Demar is a heck of an athlete,” said coach Smith. He’ll let you know, ‘Hey, I used to play basketball and I’m not your typical offensive lineman.’ I think he’s a heck of an offensive tackle. I’ve been impressed with him just about every day I’ve seen him on the football field.”
Dotson commented after practice on how the offensive line is coming together.
“We’re gelling, we’re working,” Dotson said. “We got a lot of guys that switch around, especially at the guard spots. By the time we get to Week 1, I think we’ll be alright.”
Meanwhile on defense, cornerback Alterraun Verner sat out of practice due to a hamstring injury that came back up after yesterday’s practice. The injury isn’t serious and will have a day off to recuperate. After practice, Verner spoke about why he came to Tampa to play for the Buccaneers.
“I just think this is a team on the up-and-up and have a ton of potential to be very good,” Verner said. “I knew I wanted to be a part of that and Coach Lovie showed that interest and thought I could be a big part of it.”
Another player that signed with Tampa Bay this offseason was defensive tackle Clinton McDonald. He brings some veteran leadership and discussed the competition between him and second-year man Akeem Spence at the nose tackle position.
“I think we’re pushing each other,” said McDonald. “We’ve got to push each other every day, that way when we get out there on Sunday it’s a breeze. The hardest days of work are in practice.”
McDonald has been impressed with the leadership from All-Pro Gerald McCoy, saying his dedication to making all his teammates better is a huge motivator.
“I’m very impressed with that, you see a guy like that, an All-Pro type guy, you would think most guys like that are selfish or don’t care. But he has a big heart and he cares for this program, he cares for this team and he cares for us.”
The six year veteran is coming off winning a Super Bowl championship with the Seattle Seahawks. McDonald more than anyone on the current roster knows what it takes to win on the grandest stage in football, and sees a desire in his teammates that he like to see.
“I see the mindset that everybody’s thinking about Phoenix this year,” said McDonald. “Coach Lovie set the goals high this year, which he’s supposed to, he’s expecting it too. “I think all the guys here are hungry. They’re very hungry for a win, for a championship, for everything for this whole city.”
The Buccaneers will get their first day off Tuesday, and will return to practice Wednesday at 4:30pm. Practice will be closed to the general public, available only to the media.