TAMPA — Brent Grimes stood in the rain after practice Monday at One Buccaneer Place. He looked happy.
"I'm just doing ball," he said.
Only it's never just about doing ball when it comes to Grimes, at least for many observers. Probably has his wife, Miko, to thank for that. They are devoted to each other and have a 6-year-old son. Miko Grimes is her husband's chief defender, protector and promoter, and she has done it at the top of her lungs, particularly on social media, sometimes infamously. Name another NFL player's wife who proclaims that she helped her husband get cut from his last team, the Miami Dolphins. The eclectic couple was brilliantly captured in a recent Sports Illustrated article.
"To be honest, I haven't read it," Brent Grimes said.
I believe him.
The story that needs more play is that the soft-spoken Grimes, 34 and still a freakishly good athlete, has defied his age out on the islands where old cornerbacks go to die.
He joined the Bucs as a free agent before last season and settled down the secondary, tying for the team lead with four interceptions and with more passes broken up (24) than anyone in the NFL. Teams stopped throwing Grimes' way, which partly explains why Bucs rookie corner Vernon Hargreaves surrendered more than 1,000 receiving yards. Grimes has more pass break-ups than anyone since 2013.
Meet a four-time Pro Bowler who beat the odds - 5-10, a Division-II player (Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania), undrafted out of college, former member of the Hamburg Sea Devils of now-defunct NFL Europa, shoved to the side more than once in his NFL career. He knows what undrafted players go through at NFL camps.
"When I got my opportunities, I made the most of them," Grimes said. "I'm proud of that. When you're undrafted, you have to take advantage of your shot. You can't listen to what people say."
You just keep on doing ball. And well.
"His athleticism hasn't fallen off," said Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith, who also coached Grimes as head coach in Atlanta. "His speed hasn't fallen off. I think he has a number of years left at a high level. He hasn't changed. He's the same old Grimey."
"He's like a kid out there," Bucs safety Chris Conte said. "Sometimes he acts like he's 15, very youthful in his demeanor, attitude and energy."
"He's been my favorite player since high school," Hargreaves said. "He has played in this league, what, 11 years? He never gets any attention. He never gets any love. His play speaks for itself."
So, where's the respect?
"I feel like I get it from players," Grimes said. "But as far as anyone else, no. I think it's because I am who I am. I'm not very vocal. I'm not that guy you talk about. I don't put controversial stuff out. It is what it is. It's been that way my whole career. I'm just chilling. I guess that's why I don't get as much hype or pub."
Then there is his wife. She's vocal.
"I don't control what she says," Grimes said. "It doesn't affect me at all. I'm not the one saying it. I never said anything like that. It's what she wants to say. How am I going to stop it? I feel like if I go that route, where does it stop? What if my cousins want to say something? Or if my great aunt says something on Twitter? I can't control all that. That's how she lives, that's what she wants to say. I say what I want to you guys."
There's so many other parts to Brent Grimes' story. Included is the kid inside him that still toys with the idea of trying to another game when his NFL playing career is over.
"I always wanted to play basketball," Grimes said. "The chance of making the NFL at 5-10 was better. I went the football route. Whenever when I feel like I'm done at football, yeah, I'd try it."
He added, "When you play, you've got to compartmentalize things. You've got to concentrate on one thing at a time."
That will be put to a test the first week of the season. The Bucs will play the Dolphins in Miami.
Here's betting Brent Grimes ends up just doing ball.
Contact Martin Fennelly at [email protected] or (813) 731-8029. Follow @mjfennelly