TAMPA — How many times have you gotten that dream job and the first thing the boss tells you to do is put on some weight?
We're not just talking about a few pounds here. It's Biggest Loser in reverse.
Even though they were successful as penetrating defensive linemen in college, players such as rookies Roy Miller and Kyle Moore were told last season to eat like a death-row inmate ordering a last meal.
Sundaes were suddenly more important than Sundays. Their blood type was Ragu. Miller gained 30 pounds. Moore packed on 22.
"I just felt sluggish last year," said Miller, a third-round pick from Texas. "I didn't really notice at first. It took me a while to figure out the difference of my body."
Moore, a fourth-round pick from Southern Cal, said he tipped the scales at 294.
"That's way heavy," Moore said. "I haven't ever been that heavy in my life. Ever. That was my main focus to get my explosion and lose a lot of that body fat that I picked up. It was bad weight that I picked up after the (NFL) combine because I was 272."
Of all the mistakes the Bucs made last season, this one might have taken the cake. Literally.
In the scheme under new defensive coordinator Jim Bates, the Bucs believed their linemen would be more effective if they bulked up. But all it did was slow their development.
It also might have contributed to injuries. Moore missed the first seven games with a knee injury.
"My explosion wasn't there," Moore said. "I could automatically tell a difference. I started moving a little bit better with the weight. But still, it wasn't me."
Miller battled through ankle, knee and hamstring problems.
"Losing the weight will enable me to open up my hips more," Miller said.
The talk around One Buc Place the next few weeks will be about Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh and Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy. One of the impact defensive tackles is likely to be available when the Bucs choose No. 3 overall.
But regardless of what happens, the Bucs have reason to feel better about their defensive line.
After returning to the one-gap Tampa 2 scheme under coach Raheem Morris, the Bucs allowed just 17 points per game over the last six contests. Moore showed flashes playing left end and as a tackle on passing downs.
Miller was extremely productive as a rookie. He had 54 tackles, three fewer than Chris Hovan and six more than starting DT Ryan Sims. He also was tied for fourth on the team with two sacks.
"Those guys are great players, Suh and McCoy," Miller said. "I definitely know what they can do and know they can help any team that they become a part of. But at the same time, we've got young guys who feel they have something to prove this year.
"Being around the guys that you go out and grind all the time, that's something a young team needs. We're all young, so being around everybody, you felt, 'I kind of know that guy.' But this year we've all been busting our butts together, and there's just a lot of trust being built right now, especially with the young guys. It's exciting because you're starting to see personalities emerge that you didn't know they had."
That's better than watching waistlines emerge any day.
IN A RUSH: LB Barrett Ruud says one area he needs to improve is blitzing.
"I have a lot of things I want to work on this year. I wasn't real happy with the way I blitzed last year," said Ruud, who had no sacks last season. "That's one thing you can work on individually; using your hands, trying to be a little more creative. Obviously, we're going to incorporate more of the matchup coverage, but you just can't do it every play."