TAMPA — Throughout the preseason, rookie LB Mason Foster will be one of the more scrutinized Bucs, considering he is expected to take over for the departed Barrett Ruud as starting middle linebacker.
But the third-round draft pick got a tough on-the-job test Thursday, with Patriots QB Tom Brady & Co. giving him some welcome-to-the-NFL moments.
Foster, who played into the third quarter of the Bucs' 31-14 loss, had one tackle, picked up a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty and acknowledged he made mistakes, though he believes they're correctable.
"Mason Foster needed to see Tom Brady," DT Gerald McCoy said. "Now he knows the preseason is really a glorified scrimmage, now he knows when the live bullets start flying … he knows what to expect."
Just more than three minutes into the first quarter, Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez got behind Foster on a 16-yard touchdown reception from Brady. Coach Raheem Morris took the blame for the score, saying it was a bad call to have just a single safety.
"It was just a bust," Foster said. "I don't know who was supposed to be where. You've just got to go work on that and get better."
On the next series, Foster was called for a high hit on WR Chad Ochocinco. "I didn't feel like it was a penalty," Foster said. "I just used my shoulder. But the NFL has a bunch of new rules, so I've got to get used to that. I thought it was a clean hit."
The Bucs had previously held Foster out of nickel package situations, hoping to simplify things for him. But Morris planned on using him more in those spots Thursday to see his pass coverage.
"It's a learning experience," Foster said. "It's my second time putting on a Buccaneer uniform. I'm just going to get better from here on out."
SPLASH PLAY: CB Elbert Mack provided one of the Bucs' few bright spots, a 69-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter. Mack made a sliding pick of a Ryan Mallett pass, then broke a few tackles before racing down the right sideline, ending it with a celebratory dance in the end zone.
"I just wanted to get in the end zone," Mack said. "Once you catch it, you know you smell the end zone. And once you get in, have fun with it."
LINING UP: The Bucs' inactives for the game: WR Arrelious Benn (knee), CB Myron Lewis (hamstring), S Ahmad Black (foot), TE Luke Stocker (hip), DT Brian Price (pelvis), DT Roy Miller (knee) and CB Aqib Talib (hamstring). Talib said he'll play next week against the Dolphins. TE Kellen Winslow dressed but did not play.
MISCELLANY: McCoy, who missed last week's game vs. Kansas City with a rotator cuff injury, made his preseason debut, recording one tackle and saying he felt good. … Winslow declined to comment on the Yahoo Sports report about former Miami booster Nevin Shapiro and the benefits he says he gave Hurricanes players. Shapiro says Winslow was in his social circle while Winslow was at UM.
KICKING IT: P/PK Michael Koenen averaged 51.8 yards on four punts. … K Connor Barth missed a 47-yard field-goal attempt to end the first half.
FOR THE FANS: Raymond James Stadium was about one-third empty, with an announced attendance of 49,313.
the ray WAY: Rays manager Joe Maddon, taking advantage of his team's off day, attended the game, sitting in Morris' suite. Maddon is good friends with Morris. … Rays reliever Kyle Farnsworth was also spotted in the stands.
Joe Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Aug. 27: vs. Dolphins, 7:30*
Sept. 1: at Redskins, 7:30
All games on Ch. 10; * subject to NFL blackout rules