Welcome to the NFL
The Bucs' 10 draft picks plus a group of rookie free agents and other hopefuls on "tryout contracts" will arrive in Tampa today to begin what they hope will be properous NFL careers.
Of course, it won't work out for all of them, but in the next few days they'll get a taste of the NFL during the Bucs' rookie camp Friday though Sunday. Today will be much like the first day of school for youngsters as they get a tour of the massive new One Buc Place and hit the books this evening to begin learning the ABC's of the offensive and defensive schemes.
Gaines Adams and others will find out where they'll be stationed in the team's posh locker room, and they will don a jersey for the first time. It's a fairly eye-opening experience, particularly for those from small colleges, such as Adam Hayward of Division I-AA Portland State and Greg Peterson of Division II North Carolina Central. Chances are they've never seen an underwater treadmill or a meeting room so technologically advanced, with computerized scouting equipment, it looks like something out of mission control at NASA.
For some players who are basically trying to make their case for an invitation to training camp, this weekend is also nerve-racking. Such players will include guys like former Nebraska quarterback Zac Taylor, who ran an offense strikingly similar to the Bucs' while in college. Taylor was overlooked in the draft, largely because of questions about his arm strength and technique, but he was very productive for the Cornhuskers. The Big 12 offensive player of the year threw for a school-record 5,850 yards with 45 touchdowns during his career.
Another such player is Mike McFadden from Grand Valley State. He played defensive end in college but didn't project there in the NFL. So, during pre-draft preparations, he took the advice of scouts and entered the draft as a fullback and began learning the position during the spring. He wasn't selected on draft day, but the Bucs signed him to a rookie free agent contract and want to see whether he has the tools to develop into a formidable NFL fullback.
There will be a handful of familiar names in the camp, players who have played limited roles or participated on the practice squad the past couple of years. But vested players are prohibited from participating in such camps, so the team will be limited in who takes part. Coach Jon Gruden isn't a fan of the rule.
"There's only going to be six or seven men from our roster that will participate in this camp," he said. "I don't agree with that. There are a lot of guys that haven't taken a snap in the league that, I think, should be at this camp. They need the work."