TAMPA — When the Bucs traded Gaines Adams to the Bears in mid October, they received more than just a 2010 second-round pick in return.
They also got a reinvigorated Stylez White.
White, a third-year pro, has stepped up since taking over the starting right defensive end spot, racking up 61/2 sacks and a team-high 29 quarterback pressures in eight games.
"They gave me some more responsibility, and I'm relishing it," White said. "I want it to be on me. It's good for me because I want them to trust me."
To defensive line coach Todd Wash, White's improved numbers are more than just a result of more opportunities. White had 13 sacks in his first two seasons but started only twice while behind Adams, 2007's fourth overall pick.
"I think mentally, (White) was a little bit frustrated when Gaines was here because he knows he can play, and he really wasn't getting an opportunity because we were going to play Gaines and see what we had," Wash said.
"Now Stylez sees himself as a starter. The rest of the team really sees him as a starter, and he just feels more comfortable within that role. He's getting more opportunities, but he's playing extremely well for us right now; not just versus the pass but also versus the run."
With a different status, White, 30, also brought a different mentality. Coach Raheem Morris used to call White "A.I.," a reference to the NBA's Allen Iverson, because White didn't like to practice.
But Wash has seen a renewed commitment from the 6-foot-3, 270-pound Newark, N.J., native. He believes White appreciates the opportunity considering his tough journey. A 2002 seventh-round pick out of Minnesota by the Texans, White had brief stints with five other teams as well as Orlando of the Arena Football League before joining the Bucs in 2007.
"There's no question he gives a lot better effort in practice," Wash said. "When he's in there, he's giving the most out of every rep that he has. It's just a change in Stylez.
"I don't know how you put anything on it. It's definitely a positive thing. He's more of a studious player because he's getting more reps."
While White is pleased with his individual success and getting closer to personal goals, it rings hollow considering the Bucs' 1-12 record. Those are the numbers that matter most to him.
"The best word is bittersweet," White said. "It's like, 'Oh, I'm doing well,' but it's at the expense of our team losing. One minute, I'm like, 'Yeah!' and then it's like, 'Well, great, I had 21/2 sacks that game, but we lost.' So it leaves a sour taste in my mouth."
Joe Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org