Grothe emotional about Bucs, return to football
TAMPA -- Perhaps five minutes into talking to reporters after his first football practice since September, Matt Grothe had to stop and collect himself, overcome with the emotion of a day in a Bucs uniform.
"It's just something I love to do. The last eight months have been a big struggle for me, but I'm trying to come back strong," said the former USF quarterback, one of 49 tryout rookies hoping to earn a free-agent contract during the three-day rookie minicamp. "It's live practice, and I'm back at it. It's something I've missed, something I'll never regret. ... A lot of kids dream to be in these shoes, so I'm just going to not take it for granted and do what I can to try to stick around."
Grothe faces long odds -- the Bucs have four quarterbacks on roster, including an undrafted rookie in former Mississippi quarterback Jevan Snead. But in a short amount of time, especially coming back from a knee injury that ended his senior season after just three games, he's turned a few heads at One Buc Place.
"I was very impressed with Grothe," coach Raheem Morris said. "Listening to him get into a huddle, you understand why he was in control of his team, why he was a guy over there at South Florida that ran the show. Just talking to him, he has the lingo of a quarterback, the mind of a quarterback, the personality of a quarterback.
"He lacks some size. I like picking on him a little bit. I told him to stand up when he was behind center. I like messing with my guys. You're talking about a sharp guy, a guy who has a lot of wins under his belt, a lot of yards. ... I can see why."
Grothe admitted having his share of jitters at his first practice, wearing the uniform of the team he grew up cheering for in Lakeland, in the shadow of the same stadium he played in for four years with the Bulls.
"It's extremely nerve-wracking," Grothe said. "It's the NFL. It's not college or high school. A couple of plays, I'd go up there and I'd have to step back for a sec, because I was shaking. ... I'm just so anxious to get out here because it's been so long. I couldn't let myself calm down. I'm going to work on doing a better job of that tomorrow. Everybody's flying around at 120 mph, and I was a little out of my own league. ... It's a chance for me to come out here and prove I can play."
(Thanks to the Times' Daniel Wallace for the photo.)