TAMPA — Carlton Mitchell was the last Bucs player off the practice field Tuesday, taking an extra 20 minutes to run routes with Josh Freeman and other quarterbacks in his first work after signing with Tampa Bay.
"I grew up watching this team. I've lived here since third grade," Mitchell said, wearing a white No. 12 jersey. "I'm just here to work hard, learn the playbook, do what I'm told."
Mitchell, 25, who played at Gaither, then starred as a USF receiver from 2007-09, spent two seasons with the Browns before being sidelined by a calf injury last year. He joined the Cowboys as a free agent but was released last week, and was home in Tampa when the Bucs called.
"I was about to go out for a workout, and they said, 'How far are you from the facility?' I said '15-20.' They said, 'I'll see you at 1:45,' and it was 1:20," said Mitchell, who trained with Freeman during the last NFL lockout. "I'm excited. It's a blessing. Things didn't work out in Dallas, obviously, but I'm going to do what I can here."
Bucs coach Greg Schiano and special teams coach Dave Wannstedt went up against Mitchell in college when they were head coaches at Rutgers and Pittsburgh, respectively.
"They broke our hearts a few times," Mitchell said. "I still remember when (Rutgers) rushed the field on us when we were ranked No. 2. I remember that game like it was yesterday."
ME-ME-ME: Schiano and Wannstedt worked on punt-block drills, focusing on details all the way down to having players shout "me, me, me" before picking up a loose ball, like an infielder on a pop fly.
Schiano watched from one knee just behind the punter, working on the technique of blocking with hands together and scooping up the loose ball.
FOSTER IMPROVES: Schiano said he wasn't sure what to expect from LB Mason Foster when he became coach a year ago. Foster also had struggled in coverage before his arrival.
"When we first arrived, I wasn't sure how good of physical condition he was in," Schiano said. "But from that day until now he's made a marked change in his body, his cardiovascular condition. He's bigger, he's stronger and he certainly understands the defense much better. I think he can have a promising career here."
SHORT STORY: RB/kick returner Matt Brown is 5 feet 5 and faces tall odds of making the 53-man roster in September. But Schiano was so intrigued by the Big East special teams player of the year from Temple that he invited him to a rookie minicamp and offseason workouts.
Brown recently signed with Saskatchewan of the CFL but couldn't secure a passport to Canada before the Bucs called.
"He's quick as a cat and his passion for this game … who knows what's going to happen, right?' Schiano said. "He's got a lot of things that he's up against. At the rookie minicamp when he came as a tryout guy, he just worked his tail off and he made an impression on this coaching staff. He just loves being out there. It's fun to be around a guy like that."
Around the league
Pierre-Paul surgery: Giants Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, a former USF star, had surgery Tuesday on a herniated disc in his lower back. He is expected to miss training camp and most of the preseason, but should be ready for New York's opener Sept. 8 against Dallas.
Mangini hired: The 49ers hired former Jets and Browns coach Eric Mangini as a senior offensive consultant. Mangini, 42, was an analyst at ESPN for the past two years.
Cowboys: Offensive coordinator Bill Callahan is replacing coach Jason Garrett as the team's playcaller, Callahan and team owner Jerry Jones said.
Information from Times wires was used in this report.