TAMPA — As the Bucs opened the third phase of organized team activities Tuesday morning at the Advent Health Training Center, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves was a spectator for the team’s first full-squad practice.
Asked why Hargreaves didn’t participate in drills, Bucs coach Bruce Arians cryptically said, “You’d have to talk to Vernon. I mean, he’s got to get his mind right for practice.” Asked to clarify, Arians said again, “You’d have to ask him.”
It’s a peculiar beginning for Hargreaves, the former Wharton High and University of Florida star who injured his shoulder in the Bucs’ season opener last year. The injury required surgery, and Hargreaves didn’t play for the rest of the season.
He is now healthy, and despite being sidelined last season, the Bucs sent several signals that Hargreaves remains a big part of their future as a starting cornerback.
Arians gave Hargreaves high praise early this offseason, saying he liked his potential to perform in the defense’s heavy man coverage on the outside. Hargreaves glowed at the compliments, saying his new coach’s kudos gave him valuable confidence.
And last month, the Bucs picked up Hargreaves’ fifth-year team option on his rookie contract, meaning he will make $9 million in 2020.
In addition to Hargreaves sitting, second-year cornerback Carlton Davis left Tuesday’s practice with an apparent injury, which gave rookie cornerbacks Sean Murphy-Bunting (second round) and Jamel Dean (third round) first-team defensive reps.
Arians said he was impressed with the rookies on defense. First-round pick Devin White took his snaps at inside linebacker, and intercepted a Jameis Winston pass in 11-on-11 drills, and safety Mike Edwards, the team’s fourth-round pick, also saw some first-team snaps.
“All the young kids jumped out there right away,” Arians said. “It looked like they might have been here. It looked like they fit right in. All those young guys on defense have good ball skills, and turnovers are something we’ve really preached o,n and we got some today.”
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at email@example.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.