TAMPA — Micheal Spurlock is nothing if not realistic. The receiver/return man knows making history in 2007 guarantees him nothing in 2008.
"You have to come out and work every day and see what happens," he said. "If I don't make this team, there's still 31 other teams out there."
Sticking around Tampa Bay is the goal of the 25-year-old who became the first Buc to return a kickoff for a touchdown, a 90-yarder Dec. 16 against Atlanta.
But the Bucs are crowded at receiver, and second-round pick Dexter Jackson likely will return kicks. So to make the final roster, Spurlock will have to make an impression beyond special teams, his strength.
That will prove difficult for a 5-foot-10, 214-pounder who never was a full-time receiver until reaching the NFL in 2006. And though he has been on the Cardinals' and Bucs' practice squads, the former Mississippi quarterback has had few chances at receiver in game action.
"I think I'm making strides," he said Wednesday. "Have I put an exclamation point on it? No, I don't think so. I have a long way to go. But I'm out here every day watching the guys like Ike (Hilliard) and Joey (Galloway) to see what they're doing. So I really try to critique myself on film and every day add something to my game. I have to keep it up until I actually feel like a receiver out there and not just a guy who is filling in doing it."
The most difficult part of the transition from quarterback has been the discipline required, Spurlock said.
"When you're a quarterback, you touch the ball on every play," he said. "At receiver, you never know when you're going to get the ball. You can easily get lackadaisical out there, and that's when they're going to throw you the ball."
HAYES ADJUSTING: Among the many defensive players fighting for roster spots is rookie Geno Hayes, a sixth-round pick from Florida State.
Hayes is in the middle of a heated competition at linebacker, where the starters have been nailed down but a backup job or two remain up for grabs. After two preseason games, Hayes, who is playing the weakside, is getting a feel for his weaknesses.
"I think I'm doing really well right now," he said. "The main thing I'm working on now is the mental part of the game, getting everything down that I have to do out there; my checks, things like that. The talent will always be there. You have to worry about the mental stuff more."
The biggest difference, Hayes concedes, is in pass coverage, where he has a host of responsibilities not required of him at FSU. He likely is fighting for the final spot but could end up on the practice squad considering the depth of the unit.
HAYE IMPROVING: Starting defensive tackle Jovan Haye (groin) expressed optimism about playing during the preseason but stopped short of committing to it.
"I was frustrated," he said. "But once I got my MRI and I realized it was something that was going to take 2-4 weeks, that kind of eased it. A couple of weeks ago I couldn't even move my leg. Now I'm running around. I'm real close."