Back home: Ex-USF WR Mitchell signs with Bucs
TAMPA -- Carlton Mitchell was the last Bucs player off the practice field at Tuesday's OTAs, taking an extra 20 minutes to run routes with Josh Freeman and other quarterbacks in his first work after signing with Tampa Bay.
"I grew up watching this team. I've lived here since third grade," Mitchell said, wearing a white No. 12 jersey at his first practice. "I'm just here to work hard, learn the playbook, do what I'm told."
Mitchell, who starred as a USF receiver from 2007-09, spent two seasons with the Browns before being sidelined by a calf injury last year. He signed with the Cowboys as a free agent but was released last week, and was back home in Tampa when the Bucs called.
"I was about to go out for a workout, and they said 'How far are you from the facility?' I said '15-20.' They said 'I'll see you at 1:45,' and it was 1:20," Mitchell said. "I'm excited. It's a blessing. Things didn't work out in Dallas, obviously, but I'm going to do what I can here."
Bucs coach Greg Schiano and special-teams coach Dave Wannstedt went up against him throughout his USF career when they were head coaches at Rutgers and Pittsburgh, respectively. Mitchell went 1-5 against those two coaches as a Bull, most notably USF's 2007 loss at Rutgers when the Bulls were No. 2 in the nation.
"They broke our hearts a few times," Mitchell said. "I still remember when they rushed the field on us when we were ranked No. 2. I remember that game like it was yesterday."
Mitchell is healthy now, up to 217 pounds, though he wants to trim down by preseason camp "to my college size, so I can fly around like I used to." He'll still face tough odds to make the Bucs' roster -- veterans Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams, Kevin Ogletree and Tiquan Underwood are established for roster spots, but after that, there's few options with NFL experience. Mitchell is competing with Chris Owusu (who had one catch last season) and rookies like Tim Wright, who played for Schiano at Rutgers.