Bucs' Luke Stocker trying to overcome injury, seize opportunity
In an effort to prepare for the rigors of training camp, tight end Luke Stocker worked hard before the Bucs reported for the start of the 2013 season.
Maybe too hard.
He suffered a calf injury in his pre-camp training and then compounded the injury by attempting to complete coach Greg Schiano’s strenuous, mandatory conditioning test.
So, instead of gearing up for the most important training camp of his career, Stocker has been nursing another injury.
“This is absolutely my shot,” said Stocker, listed as No. 1 on the preseason depth chart. “They’re handing it to me and saying, ‘It’s yours, you have to take it and run with it.’ That’s why this injury has been so frustrating.”
It’s been hard for Stocker to run with the opportunity when he’s mostly been standing in place. Free-agent signing Tom Crabtree has taken advantage of the increased snaps, as have others, like Nate Byham. The tight end position has become one of the team’s most competitive.
“It is an interesting group,” Stocker said. “You don’t really have anyone that’s really seasoned and had a lot of success under their belt as an individual. . . Everyone’s trying to get to that point where they break through in their career, so you see a lot of guys who are just battling out there and I’m really excited to get back out there and battle with them.”
When will that happen?
That depends on Stocker’s timeline. Trainers are taking things slow with him even though he’s been activated from the physically unable to perform list. And even when he is back to full strength, Stocker is going to have to prove some things.
With 28 receptions in two seasons, he can’t exactly be considered accomplished despite his showing flashes of real talent. With the Bucs opting not to go out and sign a big-name tight end after the departure of Dallas Clark, Stocker has a real chance to fill the void. But the Bucs need to see more, and Stocker knows it.
“I think I’ve shown promise,” he said. “I’ve shown them that I can do things. It’s a matter of consistently doing good things and the things that they need me to do. That’s this league. You show promise, you stick around. But the thing is, if you want to be a great player, you have to do it and you have to do it consistently.”
And, as is the case with Stocker, you also have to stay on the field.