TAMPA — Everyone knows what they say about first impressions.
But if that saying were true, then there probably would be no point in having defensive tackle Dre Moore on the Buccaneers' roster.
His debut as a 2008 fourth-round draft pick was so forgettable, he didn't even make the final roster. Instead, he was reduced to the practice squad along with mostly undrafted prospects. It was a surprising result given the rave reviews the organization gave Moore upon his arrival, referring to him as an interior pass rusher in the Warren Sapp mold.
But a new coaching staff and a new, focused attitude have combined to give Moore an opportunity to change opinions and, more important, his fate.
"I've been waiting for the better part of a year to make a second first impression," Moore said.
There are reasons the Bucs think Moore is different. He is in dramatically better condition, something that is evident by a glance; his effort has improved; and football seems to rank higher on his priority list.
"When I became the head coach, I had a heart-to-heart with Dre," said coach Raheem Morris, promoted to his post in January. "We went in my office, and I told him I did not like him very much last year. But I said, 'I'm willing to look at you for you this year.' I told him to go out there and get better, and he's done that.
"I see effort. He's giving me everything he's got. He's showing some splash plays. He's still got miles to go, but the jump from last year to this year, man, it's not even close."
The Bucs plan to use Moore in their rotation of defensive tackles. Moore is probably trailing rookie Roy Miller for the third slot, but wherever he's slotted, it's hard not to envision him making the team and playing important snaps.
That's a much different outcome from 2008.
"I think the best thing that ever happened to Dre was getting cut and being put on the practice squad," defensive line coach Todd Wash said.
"He knows how much that affected him as a football player and how we looked at him. I kind of felt that he thought that, being a draft pick, he would have a place on the football team and he just went through the motions. But now he knows it's tough on the street.
"So, he's become more of a student of the game; he's more focused in meetings. I love the guy, but sometimes he just was a slacker. It took him more time to grow up, but we've seen him mature, and now we're seeing the importance that football has to him."
Moore said he was overwhelmed by everything last year, from learning the playbook to living on his own in an unfamiliar city.
Physically, he points to his intense offseason work remaking his body as a key. He looks downright svelte now. Morris said — with a straight face — that Moore "couldn't even do a pushup" when he arrived in May 2008, in part because of a shoulder injury suffered while at the University of Maryland.
"I wanted to be here and put the work in, and I really put in a lot of work in the weight room," said Moore, 24. "I probably weigh 330 (pounds) right now, but I feel good."
Moore has made some head-turning plays in the preseason, including a quarterback hurry against Tennessee that redirected Kerry Collins into defensive end Stylez White for a sack. But making up for that bad first impression will take more than a couple of highlights.
"But I just want to ride whatever momentum I can get," Moore said. "What I'll say is that I didn't pack it in after last year, so I'm not going nowhere now."