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Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Josh Johnson confident in quarterback competition despite odds

Josh Johnson spent all of last season, his first in the league, as the scout team quarterback. This year, he said he’s just waiting for an opportunity to display his skills.

BRIAN CASSELLA | Times

Josh Johnson spent all of last season, his first in the league, as the scout team quarterback. This year, he said he’s just waiting for an opportunity to display his skills.

TAMPA — It's hard to know how Josh Johnson figures into the Bucs' quarterback equation, but anybody can do the math.

There are four QBs for three spots. Veterans Luke McCown and Byron Leftwich are battling to start or maybe to keep the seat warm for first-round pick Josh Freeman.

But Johnson, the second-year pro from San Diego, won't allow himself to be counted out.

"I don't doubt my abilities," Johnson said.

"It's just a matter of time before I can show them off in game situations. It's not frustrating. It makes me hungry. It makes you a better competitor when you know every snap counts."

A fifth-round pick, Johnson was good enough last season to convince the Bucs to keep four quarterbacks on their 53-man roster. (Some teams kept only two.)

He spent the entire season on the scout team, simulating the opponent's offense. But learning Jon Gruden's complex offense was good training ground, as was watching veterans Jeff Garcia and Brian Griese.

"When I first got here, guys told me if you can pick up this offense, you can learn any offense," Johnson said. "What I learned last year — the little tips and tricks here and there — it's helped me a lot this year. I appreciate the fact I was able to sit behind those guys last year as far as the preparation goes. I can apply it to the practice field now."

For much of the offseason, Leftwich and McCown have worked with the first team while Freeman and Johnson ran the same plays with rookies and second-year players at the other end of the field.

Johnson said he has had his share of good days. He also is not one to listen to fantasy depth charts.

"I've always been discounted," Johnson said. "I was coming out of high school when I went to San Diego, a nonscholarship school. Then last year, they said he can't do it against the better competition, and I went to the East-West game and was the MVP. I took a step back in the combine, and even when I didn't have an opportunity to get reps at all, I never lost confidence in myself.

"When you get on the field, you let your natural ability take over, and that's what I intend to do."

Pick signs: Left tackle Xavier Fulton, a fifth-rounder, became the first draft pick to sign, getting a four-year deal. Financial terms were not disclosed. The 6-foot-5, 306-pounder played left tackle at Illinois but is expected to play on both sides. He has not participated in practices while recovering from a shoulder injury.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Josh Johnson confident in quarterback competition despite odds 06/10/09 [Last modified: Thursday, June 11, 2009 8:42am]
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