Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Byron Leftwich takes control in red zone work
Byron Leftwich is putting the ball in the end zone and himself in a good position to win the quarterback race.
Leftwich threw all three touchdown passes for the Bucs during a 12-play, full-speed, red zone drill today. He continued to have the hot hand during 7-on-7 red zone work, tossing two more TDs.
"I just try to go out every day and put the ball in the end zone,'' Leftwich said. "We did a good job of that today. We've been doing a great job of it all camp, really. We're just out there working, guys are getting open and they're making it easy on me and I'm putting the ball on them. That's what we've got to do to be a good football team in this league.
"You've got to be great in the redzone. You've got to score touchdowns and not field goals and that responsibility comes on the quarterback and I take that responsibility.''
During the red zone work, Leftwich completed two touchdown passes to Jerramy Stevens and another to tight end Ryan Purvis.
It's that type of play-making that could enable Leftwich to eventually surge ahead of Luke McCown in the quarterback race. But nothing will be decided until at least the third preseason game.
"You have to be very fearless, and sometimes it might get me in trouble,'' Leftwich said. "I think my percentage is going to come out in the end. You've got to take chances. When you're down there, the field is so condensed, most of the time it's going to be bang, bang. He's going to catch it, he's going to get hit, it's going to be a little window. You've got to fit the ball in there.''
Leftwich has cut down on the few interceptions he had the first two days of training camp.
"One thing about camp, interceptions are meant to happen,'' Leftwich said. "They happen every where in every camp to every quarterback out there. Because you try certain things. You try certain things, you're learning knew plays.''
Running back Earnest Graham said he has been impressed with Leftwich.
"Byron is an awesome player, I think,'' Graham said. "I'd never seen him in person until he got here. When I first started to see him play week after week, I was wondering how we were able to get a guy, as bad as you need quarterbacks in this league, I was wondering how we were able to get him when we got him. You'd think other guys would be knocking his door down. For us to have Byron Leftwich at this point, I don't think there's nothing he can't do. He's a highly intelligent guy. He can make every throw. I'm glad we've got him.''
Bucs coach Raheem Morris said Leftwich's experience is an advantage in camp. Leftwich has played in 56 career games. McCown has appeared in 12.
"Leftwich has some experience. It's easy to see. He's got some leadership skills,'' Morris said. "He's done it before. He's won 12 games in this league. All that stuff comes out when Leftwich is playing, when Leftwich understands everything, when Leftwich has control of the huddle. Those are some of the things we're talking about with the quarterback stepping out of his box, stepping out of his shell. It was great to see.
"Of course, as you know about these quarterbacks, we've got to get them under these lights and we've got to see Leftwich do it under the lights -- again. We've got to see him do it under our lights, at our stadium, with our coordinator, with this head coach. Then we'll see.''
The test for Leftwich will be whether his limited mobility and long delivery will prevent him from being as effective as McCown, a great athlete known for his ability to make plays with his arm and his feet.
"For all those guys, it's about timing in the pocket,'' Morris said. "Everybody's timing in the pocket is different. You'll see more dynamic, splash plays with Luke moving out of the pocket, obviously because of his athletic ability. With Leftwich, the ball has to come out, you've got to throw it away, whatever it is. He's okay as an athlete. You know, he did score 59 in a basketball game. It's still unproven, but I'm going to take his word for it. He has some athleticism, but we just tease him a lot. We pick on him a lot. But it's good, man, we call him Slug. It's awesome.''