TAMPA — In the Bucs' defensive scheme, the nose tackle isn't usually thought of as a penetrator or pass rusher.
But Frank Okam is putting his own spin on the position, making a push for extensive playing time and, perhaps, a starting job. After Okam consistently penetrated the Dolphins' front in Saturday's preseason game and leveled RB Reggie Bush in a goal-line stop, Bucs coach Raheem Morris said Okam's impact has been undeniable.
"Okam is a space eater, a penetrator, a problem," Morris said.
Okam is listed at 350 pounds, but Morris has a different stance.
"He's 370 pounds, and I'm proud of it," Morris said. "He is huge. He called up after the lockout and said. … 'I'm 370.' I said, 'We've got to get him down!' Then he showed up and he just looked big and square. We got him going, and I said, 'Let's just keep him right there.' I don't know what weight that is, but whatever it is, he's playing at a high level and with great energy."
With last season's starter, Roy Miller, still out with a knee injury, and Brian Price playing a limited role coming off a pelvis injury, Okam has taken advantage of his opportunity. The former Houston draft pick might or might not start, Morris said, but he has carved out a much bigger role.
"He's unique," Morris said. " … He's impressive, so you do want to get him more snaps. I'm less concerned about who (starts). I'm just happy we have those problems."
Miller, TE Kellen Winslow (ankle) and CB Aqib Talib (hamstring) practiced Monday.
ROSTER CUTS: WR Jock Sanders, a former St. Petersburg Catholic star, was among Bucs cuts Monday. Others waived: WR Aundrae Allison, CB Vince Anderson, TE Collin Franklin, DE Brandon Gilbeaux, WR Detron Lewis, P Robert Malone and FB Rendrick Taylor. CB Ashton Youboty was released, and G Brandon Carter was waived/injured.
Third-string QB Rudy Carpenter said it's an anxious time for everybody. With the new NFL rules stipulating teams only have to make two quarterbacks active on game days, that precious spot on the 53-man roster can go to another position. Carpenter said he has heard from friends around the league that some teams are going with two quarterbacks.
"It's hard for everybody," Carpenter said. "There's only 53 spots on the roster, and I think people try to act like they don't care, but guys are looking around seeing who is getting cut and guys are counting."
BACK IN BLACK: Rookie S Ahmad Black, a former Gators star, could be in for a tough roster battle. The fifth-round pick impressed Morris through training camp but hasn't played since suffering a high ankle sprain in the first preseason game against the Chiefs.
Asked Monday whether Black needed to play this week to compete for a roster spot, Morris said, "I know he's going to try to go this week, but it'd be hard for him right now to go out there and do some things, especially with the way Larry Asante's playing and Corey Lynch. Those guys played their butts off this preseason, not to mention our starters. It'll be tough. You'd like to see him out there."
It's unclear if that referred to Black's ability to play this week or his chances of making the team, but Black is facing long odds either way.
ON GUARD: Though LG Ted Larsen has started throughout the preseason, and did well last season, Morris acknowledged versatile G Jeremy Zuttah shouldn't be counted out of the mix.
Larsen, a former Palm Harbor University standout, suffered an ankle injury in Saturday's game, but it isn't considered serious.
"It's always a battle there; you can never say 'No' to Zuttah," Morris said. "The versatility that Zuttah brings to our offensive line is unique, and having the ability to play center, play guard, he's playing with a nice nasty demeanor. That battle will continue to go on as long as those two players are here."