After the first day of Bucs training camp, running back Jeremy McNichols is free to get out of the heat he's been playing in and get some rest. Instead, the 5-foot-9 back is the first player to talk to fans watching from the sidelines and the last to leave them.
It's the first day of practice for McNichols, who missed minicamps after undergoing shoulder surgery shortly after the NFL Combine. But with fellow RB Doug Martin missing the opening three games of the season due to a suspension, McNichols has the opportunity to make a case for serious snaps less than two months from now when the regular season begins. McNichols said he feels significantly healthier and more comfortable on the field than he did before the surgery.
"I'm feeling good," McNichols said. "My shoulder's feeling good again. It's probably the best it's felt in years. After the surgery it's really been healing up and I've been feeling great out here on the field."
While Martin's suspension may give him a chance to impress early in the season, McNichols said he hasn't thought much about opening week yet. Instead, he said he remains focused on training camp and hoping his versatile skill set will see him getting a chance to make an impact soon.
"As of right now, I'm just taking it day-by-day," McNichols said. "I'm just trying to get on the field any way possible, whether that's special teams, or just playing third downs, or if I end up running between the tackles. Whatever it takes to help the team win, I'll do it."
McNichols was considered one of the best pass-catchers of the running backs in the 2017 draft class, and the Bucs will likely attempt to use that strength, whether it involves McNichols in the backfield or splitting out wide. McNichols, who caught 103 passes for 1,089 yards during his career at Boise State, said he believes his receiving ability is as good as advertised.
"I feel confident in my hands, I feel confident as a pass-catcher," McNichols said. "Whether that's coming out of the backfield or lining up as receiver, I think I can provide something either way."
McNichols cut his teeth on the same blue field as Martin in college, and was among the most productive backs in the nation in his final year, rushing for 1,709 yards during his junior year and ranking fifth in the nation in yards from scrimmage. The step up to NFL training camp, without minicamps for preparation, may be a challenge, but McNichols said it's one that he will enjoy.
"It's been fun," McNichols said. "I like the challenge. I like the new opportunity I've been getting to further my career. Obviously it's a higher level but I knew to expect that and I enjoy the challenge."