Monday, January 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Oh, snap! Bucs guard Ali Marpet transitions to center

CLEARWATER — Ask Ali Marpet what he has tried to work on most this offseason, and his response is, promisingly, quick and accurate.

"Snap," says the 24-year-old offensive lineman, making a transition — coach Dirk Koetter called it an experiment — from guard to center in the spring.

Marpet has snapped before and during practices to be an emergency center but never in a game — not with the Bucs, not at Division III Hobart College, not in high school, never. He's making up for it now.

"I've been able to get with Jameis (Winston) a couple of times, and otherwise, I've snapped with anyone who will catch the ball," he said. "I go until I feel good, whether that's 20 snaps or 100, whatever it ends up being."

Marpet was at ease Thursday afternoon, sitting at Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill in a Hawaiian shirt and sporting a new shaggy haircut, received "mostly well" by his teammates this week. He ate the restaurant's new giant Hawaiian rib eye at a charity eating event to donate $4,000 to Metropolitan Ministries and, as with football, embraced the challenge with an appetite.

"I'm a center," he says. "It's always been in the back pocket. I can still play guard. I know. I've played guard. I imagine they're not saying 'You're the starter, no matter what you do.' But they like the idea, so we're going to try it."

The Bucs still have veteran centers Evan Smith and Joe Hawley, who each got $1 million bonuses in the offseason and will compete in training camp. Marpet said he likes the confidence his coaches have in him, as he did when he was drafted.

"It's not the same transition, but how I went from college to the NFL, thrown into the fire," he said.

Marpet had not heard the praise that came his way Monday from Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who said Marpet can be a "dominant, next-level center." McCoy said Marpet is a "small-space guy," strong and dangerous in close quarters, and Marpet agreed.

"The less I can move, the better," he says with a laugh. "If I can just hold on to you, grab you, I think that'll help me."

The Bucs' offensive line returns nearly intact from last season — backup tackle Gosder Cherilus retired — so there's already a chemistry and bond in conditioning workouts a full three months before preseason training camp begins.

"It's a lot of fun. There's a lot of good energy," Marpet said. "It's nice to have everyone back. I think it's huge. There's already that feel in the offensive line room. Everyone's close and has played together. I think that will show."

Marpet's transition to center comes as the team hopes to have guard J.R. Sweezy — a major addition last year who missed the entire season with a back injury — back and healthy and perhaps starting in Marpet's old slot at right guard. Sweezy has been around the group for a year, but his personality can come out more in workouts.

"I think it's going to be awesome," Marpet said of Sweezy's impact. "He was a good player in Seattle, and there's no reason he won't be a good player here. He's a little bit of a jerk, which is good. It's what we want. A little bit of a mean streak. It's going to be fun to play with him."

The Bucs are only conditioning right now — they won't line up in pads as an offensive line together for another month, until organized team activities begin May 23. Marpet likes the idea that he would line up as a center, both then and in September.

"That we're going to start off with me at center, if that's the vision they have, that's really cool," he said.

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

Comments
Oh Gahd, the Patriots are back in the Super Bowl! Don’t worry, lots of new story lines for LII vs. E-A-G-L-E-S

Oh Gahd, the Patriots are back in the Super Bowl! Don’t worry, lots of new story lines for LII vs. E-A-G-L-E-S

TAMPA – Unless you are a Chowd who drives the cah wicked fah and pahks in the yahd, you probably aren't all that jacked up about the Patriots returning to Super Bowl LII against the Philadelphia Eagles in Minneapolis. Anybody but Bill Belichick...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Patriots, Eagles bring plenty of local ties to Super Bowl

Patriots, Eagles bring plenty of local ties to Super Bowl

The Bucs aren't playing for a Super Bowl, and the game itself won't come to Tampa for three more years. But there's no shortage of cool local connections and ties on the Patriots and Eagles' rosters. You've already heard some of these stories, and yo...
Published: 01/22/18
Lessons of another Belichick-Brady Super Bowl

Lessons of another Belichick-Brady Super Bowl

TAMPA — Next victim, please.Shouldn't we just start penciling the Patriots into the Super Bowl before every season?It would save us a lot of time.Mind you, the rest of the NFL is fighting Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and this foregone conclus...
Published: 01/22/18
Crisco, dune buggy and a face-plant: Fired-up Philly fans take to the streets

Crisco, dune buggy and a face-plant: Fired-up Philly fans take to the streets

PHILADELPHIA — Not even a coat of Crisco on light poles across the city could keep Philadelphia Eagles fans from scaling new heights in celebrating their team’s first Super Bowl appearance in 13 years and setting up a rematch with the AFC champion N...
Published: 01/22/18
Eagles blow out Vikings to win NFC title

Eagles blow out Vikings to win NFC title

PHILADELPHIA — Confetti filled the air, fireworks erupted overhead, and fans sang "Fly, Eagles Fly!" No one dared head for the exits. There was too much to celebrate.The Eagles are going to the Super Bowl.The makeshift podium hadn’t taken space on Ph...
Published: 01/21/18
Updated: 01/22/18
Patriots rally past Jaguars to return to Super Bowl

Patriots rally past Jaguars to return to Super Bowl

Published: 01/21/18
Jones: Saluting CBS, honesty and goats (not to be confused with GOATS)

Jones: Saluting CBS, honesty and goats (not to be confused with GOATS)

Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.Best coverageThe best football broadcast I’ve ever seen was Super Bowl XLIII. That was NBC’s coverage of the Steelers’ last-minute victory over th...
Published: 01/21/18
Shrine Game journal: USF players’ thoughts are with grieving QB Quinton Flowers

Shrine Game journal: USF players’ thoughts are with grieving QB Quinton Flowers

ST. PETERSBURG — USF had expected to have four former players in Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field, but QB Quinton Flowers had to miss the showcase game after learning that his grandmother had died late last week."I most definitely ...
Published: 01/20/18
Late score gives West victory over East in Shrine Game

Late score gives West victory over East in Shrine Game

ST. PETERSBURG — With less than a week to install a playbook, offenses can have it tough in college showcase games.And for 58 minutes on Saturday in the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field, the teams combined for just one offensive touchdown.But...
Published: 01/20/18

Sunday’s NFL conference championship game previews

AFC: Jaguars at Patriots, 3, CBSLine/OU: Patriots by 7˝; 46The big drama leading into this game is whether, or how much, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will be slowed by his injured right hand, which kept him out of practice Thursday (see 6C for more...
Published: 01/20/18