TAMPA — Quincy Black does not look like your prototypical Bucs linebacker. He doesn't play like one, either.
At 6 feet 2 and 245 pounds, he's bigger and bulkier than the collection of masquerading defensive backs who have patrolled the middle of Tampa Bay's defense for more than a decade.
"He's an unbelievable athlete," linebackers coach Joe Barry said. "When he walks off the practice field every day, I look at his arms and I'm still not used to that.
"I couldn't go to the beach with him. Oh, my gosh, I'd be embarrassed."
One Buc Place is an impressive structure, but the real architectural marvel might be Black, who more closely resembles a defensive lineman. He's one of the main reasons the Bucs felt comfortable releasing Pro Bowl linebackers Derrick Brooks and Cato June in February.
"Honestly, we've had some of the most athletic linebackers in this league," Black said.
The big difference is that Black's size and athletic ability also enable him to rush the quarterback as a defensive end. And his skill set will keep new defensive coordinator Jim Bates up nights creating ways to blitz Black from the strongside linebacker position.
"It's definitely exciting to go out there and get some sacks, cause some fumbles and create some turnovers — all that good stuff," Black said. "Big plays, explosive plays on defense, change the momentum of a game.
"I didn't get a lot of opportunities to play on defense last year, so I want to make sure I make the most of those."
A third-round pick from New Mexico in 2007, Black had to learn how to play on fourth down. He led the Bucs in special-teams tackles with 24 last season, but playing defense in the NFL has been an adjustment.
He played an unconventional "rover" position for the Lobos, lining up everywhere and simply chased the ball carrier. "The one thing with Quincy that's special is that even if he doesn't get a great key or a great read, he's so fast and so quick and so explosive, he can physically make up for a potential mistake," Barry said.
Coach Raheem Morris loves Black's quiet demeanor. A few days ago, Morris showed the team tape of the final regular-season game against Carolina in 2007, when Black and many of his younger teammates started against the Panthers while Tampa Bay — with the NFC South clinched — rested many of its starters.
Morris' message was that Carolina physically dominated the Bucs that day, and he got the feeling Black took exception to it.
"He was the one guy in the room that kind of looked at me like, 'Man, if you do that again I'm going to run up on stage and form tackle you,' " Morris said. "I know he probably wasn't thinking that, but it was a demeanor. It's something good that he has because I don't think he rides the emotional roller coaster."
Morris believes as Black makes splash plays as a pass rusher this season — creating sacks and fumbles — it will only accelerate his confidence as a linebacker.
"If you've seen him rush off that edge, he was exciting. He was dynamic," Morris said. "If he can bring that element to his game, who knows what it's going to do for him as a linebacker. That just breeds confidence. That just gets things running the right way.
"Ronde (Barber) wasn't a great player until he had a 10-pick season (in 2001). Then it was like, 'Man, we'd better not throw the ball over there because he might score.' If (Black) gets a couple sacks … he just becomes a weapon and he's pretty intimidating looking. He's All-Beach."
For the newly minted linebacker, who is competing with second-year pro Geno Hayes, lining up with the starting defense is heady stuff.
"I'm running with the ones right now," Black said. "So until they find somebody better, it's my spot."
Is he having fun?
"The only thing that's fun is what happens on Sundays," he said.
Watch out, Tampa Bay. Black Sunday is about to begin.