Saturday, February 17, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers promote undrafted cornerback Leonard Johnson

TAMPA — Leonard Johnson felt right at home this weekend. Not just because the former Iowa State cornerback had signed with his hometown Bucs after going undrafted, though that was quite a thrill.

His comfort level was the result of being picked to work on a separate field — with the team's draft picks — during the three-day rookie minicamp that ended Sunday.

"I came in not knowing what to expect, and here I am with the drafted guys," said Johnson, a former Largo High quarterback. "So we all blend in now. Someone told me (Saturday), 'It's not how you get here. It's what you do once you're here.' And that just said it all. So I'm excited."

It didn't hurt that Johnson played well in December's Pinstripe Bowl against Rutgers and future Bucs coach Greg Schiano, who watched all 12 of Iowa State's games in preparation for that game.

The Scarlet Knights won 27-13, but Johnson limited WR Mohamed Sanu, the Big East's all-time receptions leader whom the Bengals took in the third round, to six catches for 62 yards.

The 5-foot-10, 196-pound Clearwater native was one of 14 undrafted free agents the Bucs signed last week.

"I was expecting something to come through on draft day," he said. "But God works in mysterious ways. I'm more than happy to be right here at home."

QUICK STUDY: Former Utah State RB Michael Smith has rare speed. The seventh-round pick last month was clocked at 4.26 seconds in the 40-yard dash at a predraft workout and backed it up by running 4.32 at the Aggies' pro day.

But it's how quickly Smith and Boise State RB Doug Martin, the 31st overall pick, can pick up the offense that will determine their playing time.

"We're very competitive, and he's my roommate at the hotel right now," Smith said. "We're talking together and going through playbooks together to make sure we both understand it so when we're on the field, we can execute it."

Last season Smith played behind Robert Turbin, a fourth-round pick of the Seahawks, but rushed for 870 yards and nine touchdowns, and averaged 7.6 yards per carry.

Although only 5-9, 211 pounds, Smith was physical enough to play some fullback for the Aggies. "I use my speed to my advantage and hit them before they can hit me," he said.

The good news for Smith is the Bucs aren't stocked at running back. Currently he figures to be behind Martin and LeGarrette Blount.

"I'm going to push (Blount) to his limits and make sure I try to take the position," Smith said.

RUTGERNEERS: It's usual for a new coach to sign players he is familiar with.

That has been the case with Schiano, who has four rookies from Rutgers on the roster (not including paralyzed former DT Eric LeGrand) and two veterans, C Jeremy Zuttah and recently signed DT Gary Gipson.

"Some of the guys that I'm very familiar with, if they're available and I think they have a chance to help us, (we'll sign)," Schiano said. "But my previous relationships will never cloud my vision on what's best for the Buccaneers. And that's exactly what I share with them.

"That's professional sports. I make it clear to them out of the gate that I'm doing what's best for the Bucs. If you're good with that, then let's roll. All of them understand."

Times staff writer Stephen F. Holder contributed to this report.

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