The Bucs had a deep, talented group of running backs even before they added a promising option in the draft. Just the same, Jorvorskie Lane is working to make a case for Tampa Bay to keep a bigger back on the roster. • Bigger, as in 268 pounds, if not more. • That's more than 40 pounds more than the next-biggest Bucs running back, but for Lane, it's actually low. He made a name for himself as a 280-pound running back at Texas A&M, rushing for 44 touchdowns from 2005-07.
"People don't understand. He was like a Jerome Bettis to us," said Bucs cornerback Danny Gorrer, who played with Lane at Texas A&M. "He was the running back, not a fullback. I know Jorvorskie inside-out. If he gets the opportunity, he can definitely run the ball, can catch the ball. He just has to show he can block and do all the other things."
Tampa Bay has three backs who rushed for 150 yards in games last season in Doug Martin, Mike James and Bobby Rainey, plus a rookie with superior pass-catching skills in Charles Sims and a former Olympic sprinter in Jeff Demps.
Competing against all that, Lane's goal is to show coach Lovie Smith the value in having a big back around: for that goal-line play, for that pressure short-yardage down when a physical running presence is needed. Whether he's carrying the ball or clearing a hole for the guy who is, that's where Lane thinks he can help most.
"You've got to have that," Lane said. "If it's third and 1, there should be no question you can put your big back on the field."
Lane, 27, has played only one season in the NFL, under former A&M coach Mike Sherman with the Dolphins in 2012. Smith knows his history as a primary ballcarrier in college but said as a bigger back, he'll have to prove his versatility to stick around.
"You have to be able to do more if you're at the fullback position," Smith said. "Fullbacks are kind of being pushed out of the league a little bit. You need to be able to block … he has the size to do that, and he has excellent feet, too, as a runner."
Lane got a look with the Bucs through receivers coach Andrew Hayes-Stoker, who was a graduate assistant at Texas A&M in 2005. He had promised Lane he'd help him down the road if he ever had the chance, and Lane impressed Bucs coaches in a workout to earn a free-agent contract this spring.
He had weighed more than 300 pounds at times before he got to the Dolphins and said the key to keeping his current weight — he said he was 268 on Monday and is listed at 258 pounds on the team roster — is watching his diet.
"Sugar and bread," he said when asked of the biggest problem foods he has learned to avoid. "I don't eat bread at all now."
When Gorrer heard that Lane had a tryout with the team, his first question for his old teammate was, "Are you in shape?" His answer was "definitely," and he has validated that with his play in workouts the past month.
As Smith said, bigger backs are hard to find in the NFL. The Giants' Brandon Jacobs was listed at 264 pounds, but across the league there were only a handful of running backs or fullbacks at 250 or more, including former Bucs LeGarrette Blount and Peyton Hillis.
Lane hopes to buck that trend, and he has this summer to make a believer of Smith and his staff.
"Go back to his college days," the coach said. "For a big guy, he can move and can carry the ball. He gives us a little bit of flexibility."