TAMPA — Johnthan Banks has never lacked for confidence. Before the Bucs second-round pick had even donned a practice jersey, he made it clear he wouldn't back down from a challenge.
"I'm competitive. I like to compete," the rookie cornerback said moments after his selection in April. "I don't like anyone to beat me. It's you against me. May the best man win."
Bravado? Maybe. But through the first few days of training camp, Banks' statements are proving more than bluster. The 2012 Thorpe Award winner has impressed teammates and coaches with his aggressive play and superb ball skills, as Banks has consistently gotten his hands on passes from QBs Josh Freeman and Mike Glennon.
"I think I have really good ball skills," Banks said. "I had 16 interceptions in college. But the thing about getting your hands on the ball is that you have to know the defense. That's what I've been working hard at. Now I'm able to play with a lot of swagger."
The Bucs aren't going to name a starter opposite CB Darrelle Revis for quite some time. But based on the eye test, Banks has the inside track against buddy and training camp roommate Leonard Johnson.
Banks' length (he's 6 feet 2) proves problematic for quarterbacks and receivers, as in a recent practice. Playing zone coverage on the right side of the defense, he dropped off his man when Freeman released a deep out pass. Covering a considerable distance in a flash with his long strides, Banks leaped to snag the interception.
He credits a tough upbringing for his mental toughness.
"It's been hard for me all my life," Banks said. "I'm never going to back down from a challenge. These guys are some of the best athletes in the world. I just like to compete and have fun. Football is what I do. I love it. If I want to be here a while, I have to go out and make plays."
REVIS UPDATE: After participating in practices Saturday night and Sunday morning, Revis had a scheduled day off (and the whole team is off today) as part of his recovery from a torn ACL.
"He wasn't off, he was inside doing strengthening," Schiano said. "The rehab is weight training and those sorts of things, balance things. All to plan."
WILLIAMS NICKED?: WR Mike Williams walked off gingerly with a trainer after practice. Williams made a diving catch over the middle during the two-minute drill in the final period. Schiano said he was unaware of any injury. "I hope not," he said.
BOXED IN: A year ago, S Mark Barron tried to learn everything he could from Ronde Barber. Now he is playing the same role as his mentor in many defenses.
Barron, the first-round pick from Alabama in 2012, will be close to the line of scrimmage in some defenses when the Bucs deploy as many as three safeties.
"Mark did that a lot at Alabama and was very, very effective but Ronde had done it for 16 years," Schiano said. "I think it's a pretty good transition because you have someone who is comfortable there. And he's already made some plays. The nice thing about Mark is he's got such good length so when he is trying to cover guys in the under coverage, he can reach and tap those balls down where a shorter guy can't."
MEDICAL MATTERS: Several injured players returned to practice Monday, including DE William Gholston and TE Zach Miller, with DE Markus White coming off the active/physically unable to perform list.
ROSTER CALL: The Bucs signed S Troy Nolan, who has played 38 career games for the Texans, Dolphins and Bears. The team waived G Jeff Olson.
Times staff writer Rick Stroud contributed to this report. Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]