TAMPA — Jameis Winston calls him "Jon-Jon," and it's promising that receiver Jonathan Krause would have any nickname just two weeks after joining the Bucs.
The 24-year-old receiver admitted Tuesday that his new Bucs teammates don't yet know the nickname he's had ever since high school track: Smooth.
"You've got to earn a nickname like that," said Krause, who gets a chance to do that Thursday when the Bucs go to Philadelphia to play the same Eagles team that cut him last month. "That's why I haven't told them yet. I'm still just trying to keep my head down, to take advantage of an opportunity, to earn respect and whatnot."
In what was already a wide-open battle for the Bucs' final spots for receivers, Krause has put himself in the middle of the conversation, and he's in the hunt for the punt-return job, having scored twice on punt returns in college at Vanderbilt.
"I didn't even know that guy's name," coach Dirk Koetter said last week, "and (general manager) Jason (Licht) and those guys pulled him off the waiver wire, talked about his history. For a kid that missed all of OTAs and just came out here, he's doing well. He's definitely in the mix."
That the speedy 5-foot-11 Krause could pick up a new offensive scheme quickly isn't a surprise: he has a degree in economics from Vanderbilt, so digesting the playbook was simply another assignment to learn.
"It's just like a test," Krause said of learning new terminology. "When you prepare for a test, you do well on a test. So you have to study."
He's not new to all his Bucs teammates. Mike Evans remembered him well from a 2013 game in which Texas A&M beat Vanderbilt 56-24, but Krause showed him something, finishing with 89 yards and a touchdown. Evans said he now knows him to be "real smart," and Krause has left the same impression on receiver Vincent Jackson.
"He's a smart football player," Jackson said. "He's not a rookie. He's been around the league a little bit. The kid has natural raw skills. He can play at this level. He's picked up the system quickly."
Krause had stints with the Browns and Patriots, but his first game appearance was last year with Philadelphia. Wearing the same No. 10 jersey he'll wear against the Eagles in the preseason opener, he made his NFL debut last season, catching two passes for 11 yards.
He was surprised when the Eagles cut him before training camp, but understands: "Things happen. It's the NFL. It's a business." He's grateful for the experience he gained with the Eagles, allowing him to learn the speed of an NFL game, "to grow as a person and a player."
Krause has made plays in practice — deep balls, toe-tap catches at the back of the end zone, flashing the speed that had him timed at 4.37 seconds at Vandy's pro day in 2014.
As far as motivation against a team that cut him? There's precedent: His first catch last year came against the Patriots, and Bill Belichick called him a "very dependable player … a good, young player with a good future."
The Bucs are still learning his name, and perhaps soon his nickname.
"It's definitely exciting," Krause said. "It's the first game! When's the last time we had football?"
Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.