TAMPA — The loudest signals that were barked by a Bucs quarterback Tuesday belonged to Luke McCown.
On the first day of about a dozen full-squad voluntary workouts, McCown declared that the starting job was his to lose.
"Absolutely," McCown said. "This has been a long time coming for me and I'm not letting anybody take it from me. And it's the first legitimate opportunity. Say what you want about getting three starts at the end of a season.
"But this is my first real opportunity to be the starter, to be the guy. And I look at it as mine and you're going to have to shoot me."
McCown is among five quarterbacks under contract, including first-round draft pick Josh Freeman and veteran Byron Leftwich.
Neither player was on board when McCown signed a two-year deal in February. But McCown said coach Raheem Morris made it clear from the start the Bucs might draft a quarterback in the first round.
"I wasn't surprised by it at all," McCown said. "What I love about Raheem is he shoots you straight. He's going to tell you what's going on. When I re-signed, that was the first thing he said to me. He brought me up into his office, showed me the board and said, 'This is what the depth chart looks like. Here's the competition you're going to be in. We've got the 19th pick. Who knows? All the experts say we're going to draft one (quarterback). Maybe we do. All you can do is go out, compete, and worst case scenario, you perform well and we have to make a decision whether to keep you or trade you.' "
On Tuesday, McCown split reps with Leftwich and Josh Johnson, who is the team's fifth-round pick in 2008 out of San Diego. Veteran Brian Griese is not expected to attend and expects to be traded or released. Freeman is unable to participate in offseason workouts until the semester ends at Kansas State this month.
McCown, 27, is 1-6 as a starter with a career passer rating of 75.2, but four losses came as a Browns rookie. With Tampa Bay, McCown completed 94-of-140 (67.1 percent) for 1,009 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions for a rating of 91.0.
"Nobody knew what New England had in Matt Cassel," McCown said. "You just don't know until you get out there and play, and not three games."
Leftwich, 29, has 49 starts for the Jaguars, Falcons and Steelers in six seasons. Outside of the 34-year-old Griese, he has the most experience at quarterback.
The opportunity to regain a starting job attracted Leftwich to Tampa Bay.
"It's a competition," Leftwich said. "Everybody wants to be the guy, we understand there's only going to be one guy. We're just going to work, work, and whoever wins, the best man will win."
Leftwich, a former first-round pick of the Jaguars, said he can relate to the pressures Freeman will face this season.
"I'm going to help (Freeman)," Leftwich said. "I remember when I was in that situation. It's a tough situation coming in as a rookie and playing and it's not as easy as it seems. I think sometimes you can look at what Matt Ryan and what (Joe) Flacco did last year and think it's easy. It's not easy. You can ask those guys. It's possible, but it's not easy."
What might make it easier for the quarterbacks is their supporting cast. McCown said this year's offense has the most weapons of any team he has played on in Tampa Bay.
"No question about it," McCown said. "You just look across the board. Not only that, but the depth that we have as well. We've got a chance to compete, we've got guys that are going to be able to step in and fill in when somebody has got a sprained toe and perform at a high level. When you look across the board, as an offense we can be very explosive."