TAMPA — Barrett Ruud did his best to keep up. While taking a hard-line stance to skip voluntary workouts this offseason, in hopes the team would begin talks on a new contract, the Bucs linebacker received telephone calls and missives from his coaches updating him on the installation of their new defense.
But there were more important lessons learned.
While Ruud may have gotten the team's attention, he is no closer to a new contract.
So on Tuesday, Ruud, 26, reported to the mandatory minicamp and took his spot in the middle of the defense.
"I'd like to be here a long time," Ruud said. "I'd like to be with the Buccaneers. I've really enjoyed the organization. It's a first-class organization and a great community and I like my teammates. So I'd like to be here a long time. So in that respect, yeah, I'm disappointed that it hasn't progressed.
"I was hoping to kind of speed things up, speed things along."
Instead, the Bucs coaching staff is trying to fast track Ruud's progress in the new defense under coordinator Jim Bates.
Ruud has one year left on a contract with a base salary of about $1.6-million in 2009. He said there has been no movement on an extension so he remains undecided whether to report to training camp when it begins Aug. 1.
"There are no discussions; there haven't been any," Ruud said. "There hasn't been much for discussion. I'd like to think everything will take care of itself but that remains to be seen.
"I'm sort of taking it day by day.''
Complicating matters for Ruud is the lack of an extension of the collective bargaining agreement between NFL owners and the NFL Players Association. If the CBA is allowed to expire after this year, 2010 will become an uncapped year and a player such as Ruud would need six years of service to become an unrestricted free agent. Under that scenario, Ruud would be a restricted free agent next season and not eligible for unrestricted free agency until after 2011.
Ruud, who has led the Bucs in tackles the past two seasons and recorded a career-high 178 in 2008, is believed to be seeking a deal similar to the six-year, $42-million one signed in March by Seattle linebacker Lofa Tatupu.
"Lofa is a guy I watch all the time," Ruud said. "I love the way he plays. I feel like I played at that level last year and I'd like to stay at that elite level of linebackers. I hope it works out. I really do, but it's really out of my control."
Ruud said he worked out at the University of Nebraska while missing the Bucs' 14 voluntary workouts and declared himself in pretty good shape.
"I still have a pretty good concept of the defense," Ruud said. "I'm a little bit behind my teammates but I'm happy where I'm at.
"That's pretty much it. I decided to work out on my own. The OTAs are voluntary. They're obviously highly encouraged but I chose just to stay and work out on my own."
Coach Raheem Morris said he was excited to see Ruud back but indicated he has a lot of catching up to do.
"He is behind, not having the ability to go through all the movements with his teammates and do all the calls on the field," Morris said. "His coach (Joe Barry) has been in contact with him. His coaches have been trying to send him stuff and give him as much as they can. He's been calling to inquire. So Barrett Ruud has been a part of the team. He just hasn't been here in a physical form.
"In training camp and mandatory minicamp, we've got the ability to catch Barrett Ruud up. He's got to be a priority when you talk about doing that."