Jon Gruden says joining Bucs Ring of Honor is 'humbling''

Jon Gruden, right, has a relationship with the Bucs dating to when his father was on inaugural coach John McKay's staff. Times file (2008)
Jon Gruden, right, has a relationship with the Bucs dating to when his father was on inaugural coach John McKay's staff.Times file (2008)
Published June 3 2017
Updated June 4 2017

The Bucs announced Tuesday that late owner Malcolm Glazer and former coach Jon Gruden would be this year's inductees into the team's Ring of Honor, and Gruden, speaking on SiriusXM NFL Radio, said the nod will be very special to him.

"It's humbling for me to even consider being up there with some of the greats," said Gruden, who was coached the Bucs to their Super Bowl XXXVII victory in January 2003, beating his old team the Raiders in San Diego.

Gruden's relationship with the Bucs goes back well before his days as head coach — his father, Jim, worked with four Ring of Honor inductees with Tampa Bay as part of coach John McKay's staff, working with DE Lee Roy Selmon, QB Doug Williams and TE Jimmie Giles. Gruden coached four Ring of Honor players in LB Derrick Brooks, DT Warren Sapp, RB Mike Alstott and S John Lynch, giving him close ties to nearly all the inductees.

"I'm very thankful to the Glazer family," Gruden said in the interview. "I'm just hoping the (Bucs) can continue to get better and better. I'm excited about their future and very proud to represent them as a former coach."

Gruden will be honored Dec. 18 when the Bucs host the Falcons on Monday Night Football, while Glazer will be honored Oct. 5 during a Thursday night nationally televised home game against the Patriots.

Learning quickly

Ali Marpet has had two weeks of noncontact practices to begin his transition from guard to center, and the third-year Bucs lineman said the mental aspect of his new position is a challenge in itself, though he's getting help from QB Jameis Winston.

"Jameis does a phenomenal job of helping me out, and from there I usually get the rest of the offensive line on the same page," Marpet said after Thursday's practice. "He's fixed things that I've messed up, so that's been extremely helpful."

Marpet has never snapped in a game, so offseason practices help get him familiar with the routine of being a center, and they give him a head start on understanding all the small things he needs to pick up to line up ideal blocking for the offensive line.

"(It's) much harder, but I think I'm doing a good job of it. I'm getting a lot of help from older guys," Marpet said, referring to former starting centers Joe Hawley and Evan Smith. "Processing the information and getting everybody on the same page is a lot. There are a lot of subtleties to it. You have to be really detailed, and that's what is hard about it. It's hard to tell about the physical aspect, because we don't have the pads on. It's a mental test right now."

Settling in

Ryan Smith didn't play a snap on defense in a quiet rookie season last year, but after working him at safety most of last season, he's back in a more natural position as the team's third cornerback during practices this offseason.

"I'm still learning but glad to be back at corner," said Smith, who has filled in as a starter during practices when starters Vernon Hargreaves and Brent Grimes haven't been available. "It's been really fun, and everything's falling into place. Corner feels like a natural fit for me."

Smith, a fourth-round pick last year out of North Carolina Central, said he would be comfortable playing safety if needed, but corner is the position he played well at the end of his college career. The Bucs released veteran Alterraun Verner in the spring, leaving Smith as the third corner. He will compete with veteran Robert McClain, Jude Adjei-Barimah and Javien Elliott, who are also competing for the nickel or slot cornerback job.

"I've got questions for all the vets in the room," said Smith, who at 6 feet is the tallest Bucs cornerback. "Everybody's helping me."

Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.

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