Foster will call Bucs' defense from middle in '14
Another minor change as the Bucs change defenses under new coach Lovie Smith is that the team's middle linebacker -- fourth-year pro Mason Foster -- will make the defensive calls after two years with weakside linebacker Lavonte David doing so.
"Our Mike linebacker will make our call," Smith said. "As a general rule, the Mike linebacker, they need to see you out front all the time. ... He should do that, just like the quarterback should make the call on offensive side of the ball."
Foster said he welcomes the role in setting up the defense -- it's something he did in the NFL as a rookie in 2011, the year before David arrived, and he did so in college at Washington as well.
"It means a lot, being the leader, getting a chance to look everybody in the eyes before every snap," Foster said. "I'm excited. We've got a great defense, so it's not going to be hard."
Foster said often he had the microphone in his helmet in practice the last two years, getting signals from coaches to relay to the defense, so he looks forward to having a more vocal role on the field this fall.
"It's one of those things all linebackers have embedded in them," he said.
IT'S A LOVIE THING: Watch a Bucs practice, and you'll see that any time the ball hits the ground -- even on an incomplete pass -- defenders will rush to it and scoop it up, just to make a habit of getting to the ball in any circumstance during a game.
"You treat an incomplete pass like it's a fumble," Smith explained. "I don't think you get takeaways by chance. It has to be a mindset throughout. I want the defense to be constantly be thinking about the ball, picking it up and running with it."
Another cool quirk of practice Thursday -- seeing special-teams coach Kevin O'Dea run through punt-block drills with a pair of blue tetherballs, each hanging by a rope from the opposite ends of the crossbar in the end zone. O'Dea swings the ball forward to simulate a punter's delivery as players rush at him, which also saves time tracking down loose balls that have been blocked.
CHANGE ALL AROUND: RT Demar Dotson is a rare holdover from last year's offensive line, with guard Davin Joseph and tackle Donald Penn released and center Jeremy Zuttah traded to the Ravens. He said he misses the players he's lined up with for the past five seasons but also likes the new additions the team has made: tackle Anthony Collins, center Evan Dietrich-Smith and guard Oniel Cousins.
"Those guys meant a lot to me -- the reason I have the chance to be the player I am today is that those guys taught me a lot," Dotson said. "Those guys were the rock of this offensive line, but it quickly hits you this is a business. It's a blessing I get to stay here going on six years, that they see enough in me to keep me around. ... We lost a lot of good guys, but we gained a lot of good guys, also."
Dotson said he continues to be the quiet type, trying to lead by example, but in three days of practice, he's learned that Dietrich-Smith, signed from the Packers as a free agent, is a much more leader on the offensive line.
"Dietrich-Smith, he does enough yelling for everybody," Dotson said. "I tried to ask him (if) he can calm down a little bit. Nobody needs me trying to yell. That guy does enough."
THIS AND THAT: TE Luke Stocker was back at practice after sitting out Wednesday's drills with an undisclosed injury. He missed most of last season with a hip injury. ... Smith continues to be impressed by the speed of RB Jeff Demps, who he said is "definitely the fastest guy in the NFL." He likes Demps' hands, though he said he's been riding the former Olympic sprinter for dropping a deep pass in Wednesday's practice. ...