Slimmed-down Leftwich eager for QB battle
Bucs quarterback Byron Leftwich won't say exactly how much weight he's lost since the end of last season.
"I might even get smaller," said Leftwich, who is listed at 250 pounds on the Bucs' roster but looks lighter as the team continues OTAs at One Buc Place this week.
Leftwich will say he's lost double digits -- more than 10 pounds -- since February, when he won a Super Bowl ring at Raymond James Stadium as a backup with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He credits his better shape to having a spring without the lingering injuries that have slowed him the past three seasons.
"This was the first time in a long time I had an offseason to use," Leftwich said. "In the past, I've been rehabbing, almost two and a half years, just straight rehabbing. It takes time to get back to your old self where you're moving and everything's fine. I'm finally at that point."
Leftwich is in a wide-open battle for the Bucs' starting quarterback job, competing with returning veteran Luke McCown and first-round draft pick Josh Freeman. Learning a new offense is an old habit for Leftwich, who is playing for his fourth team in the past two years.
"I've seen all different kinds of systems," Leftwich said. "I'm trying to learn it as quick as I can. It's got a little bit of Jacksonville in it, a little bit of Pittsburgh in it, some things in it that are very similar. With the players we have, with the Kellens (Winslow), the ABs (Antonio Bryant), the Michael Claytons, the Jerramy Stevens, you can mix it up a little because you have playmakers all over the football field. That's what makes this offense so exciting."
Leftwich has been impressed with younger players like receiver Sammie Stroughter and running back Clifton Smith, as well as a former Jaguars teammate, receiver Cortez Hankton, who came into the NFL with Leftwich in 2003 and caught two touchdowns in 2004, but hasn't played in the NFL since 2006.
"I played with 'Tez, so I know what type of player he is, how good he really is," Leftwich said. "He's still got it. I know it's not real football, because it's OTAs, no pads on, but we've got a bunch of guys making plays, and that's what you want during OTAs."
-- Greg Auman, Times staff writer