TAMPA — RB Derrick Ward sealed his lips as the carnage of the Bucs' 2009 season unfolded, declining to speak with the press. But Ward said Tuesday in his first interview in months that he struggled with the strain of losing consistently for the first time in his career as well as his lack of production.
"I was just taken aback by the way we were losing," said Ward, who had success with the Giants before coming to Tampa Bay as a free agent just more than a year ago. "Nobody's used to losing. I came from New York where we were consistent winners every year. So I just had to take a step back and … reevaluate myself. This year, I'm coming back healthier and stronger than ever."
The Bucs last season envisioned having a varied and potent rushing attack, rotating Ward, Cadillac Williams and Earnest Graham. Instead, they ranked 23rd in the NFL with 101.7 rushing yards per game. Furthermore, Ward took a back seat after Williams re-emerged. Ward averaged 8.1 carries per game, finishing with 409 yards. After splitting carries with two backs in New York, Ward thought he might be something of a featured back in Tampa.
Tuesday, Ward took the blame for his lack of production, but also lamented lack of opportunities.
"I'm a ballplayer, so I want to be on the field," he said. "I want to get the carries and I want to be able to contribute and help this team win. It was a little disappointing last year because I wasn't able to do that. But I have to take a look back and look at how we were from Week 1 to Week 17. I saw us make strides throughout the whole year. This year is new. Hopefully I'll be able to contribute more and we get on a winning."
WINSLOW WORRIES? TE Kellen Winslow, the Bucs' leading receiver in 2009, is one of several players who recently had arthroscopic surgery. Winslow had a procedure on his right knee, which has a history of problems.
The club downplayed concerns, describing the surgery as a maintenance procedure. Winslow is expected to fully recover.
"Kellen did have a procedure on his knee to clean up some things," GM Mark Dominik said, adding that the Bucs plan to limit his offseason work.
ROSTER MOVES: Free agent DE Carlton Powell, a fifth-round choice of the Broncos in 2008, signed Tuesday. Powell's time in Denver was derailed by an Achilles' tendon injury as a rookie. CB Darrell Pasco was released.
Around the league
DOCTOR CHARGED: Anthony Galea was named in a federal criminal complaint filed in Buffalo, charged with treating NFL players with unapproved drugs including human growth hormone. The complaint says Galea's clients included at least three players, but it does not name them. The New York Times reported in December that Galea had treated Javon Walker and ex-Buc Chris Simms, and Jamal Lewis also has been linked to Galea, but there's no evidence linking Lewis, Walker or Simms to any wrongdoing.
BROWNS: With veteran Phil Dawson skipping voluntary workouts in an apparent contract dispute, free-agent K Shaun Suisham signed.
PATRIOTS: The team released veteran CB Shawn Springs, who signed a three-year, $10.5 million contract before last season.
RAMS: RB Steven Jackson, speaking for the first time since having back surgery in April, said he will be fully recovered for training camp.
Information from Times wires was used in this report.