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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Bucs' Noah Spence trim, healthy as 2nd season looms

Bucs players DaVonte Lambert, left, and Noah Spence take part in the ribbon-cutting Friday morning for a new track at West Tampa Elementary.

GREG AUMAN | TIMES

Bucs players DaVonte Lambert, left, and Noah Spence take part in the ribbon-cutting Friday morning for a new track at West Tampa Elementary.

The great expectations for Bucs defensive end Noah Spence started last month, when Gerald McCoy said he had a "breakout year" ahead in his second NFL season. Then teammate Robert Ayers said Wednesday that Spence could be "a 15-plus sack guy," an impressive leap from his 5.5-sack rookie year.

"We all have expectations for each other. We all have expectations for ourselves. It's all on what you do on the field, not what you say you're going to do. I want to go out and prove it," said Spence, 23 and just a year removed from going in the second round to the Bucs after playing at Ohio State and Eastern Kentucky. "I'm just going to go out and try my best to help contribute to the team as best I can."

Spence was limited by a shoulder injury much of his rookie year, wearing a harness to lessen the chance of another separation, and he had surgery after the season to repair a torn labrum. Not only will he be fully recovered for his second season, he's made major strides in conditioning as well. Spence was listed at 251 pounds last year, but said he's "240, 243" right now, and more importantly, he's dropped from 14-15 percent body fat to 9-10 percent.

"I feel so much better," said Spence, who said he has worked to cut out fast food from his diet and drinks only water to get leaner in the offseason.

Spence was at West Tampa Elementary on Friday morning with teammates DaVonte Lambert and Chris Conte as the school dedicated a new track and the launch of a "Blessings in the Backpack" program, which sends qualifying students home with nutritious food each weekend to make sure they get a good diet seven days a week. It's part of a partnership with United Healthcare, and the Bucs players spoke about the importance of combining healthy foods with regular exercise.

Spence said he's learned much in the past year, and being in the same defense for his second year is major help after spending so much of last summer trying to learn the intracacies of Mike Smith's Bucs defense.

"That was the biggest part for me, coming in and trying to learn the defense," Spence said. "Going from college, where everything is so basic, to the NFL, where the defense looks like a dictionary. Now that I know a lot more of the defense, I can run around and play faster."

Having Spence and Will Gholston fully recovered from shoulder injuries, and having fellow ends Jacquies Smith and George Johnson healthy after missing last season with injuries would be a huge boost for the Bucs' defensive line, and the defense as a whole, he said.

"I don't even know what we can be like. Definitely, having everybody back is a blessing," he said. "There's always hype after the draft, as I can see around the facility. It's going to be fun."

[Last modified: Monday, May 15, 2017 9:16am]

    

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