Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Dan Orlovsky does more than back up

TAMPA — Even after two grueling weeks of training camp, amid wobbly legs and wandering minds, Bucs backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky looked a reporter in the eyes and said with a straight face:

"I've said to (quarterbacks coach Ron Turner) during practice, 'I would love to practice, like, 15 hours a day, just do 7-on-7 all day.' I love the competitive camaraderie."

There are some teammates who might take issue with Orlovsky's proposition, but none are likely to deny he has been a crucial asset for the Bucs and their fourth-year starter, Josh Freeman.

Though Orlovsky, signed as a free agent to a two-year deal in March, has never fully resigned himself to being a career backup, he couldn't be a better fit for Tampa Bay.

Most days, the role is cushy. There's no pressure to perform unless the starter is benched or injured. Best of all, no one writes inflammatory headlines about the backup quarterback.

But Orlovsky's approach goes beyond that. He has taken it upon himself to be a resource for Freeman, to share knowledge from his seven previous seasons. And given his thirst for competition, Orlovsky strives to create something of a rivalry in practice, the goal being to bring out the best in Freeman. In the process, Orlovsky prepares himself to play if necessary.

All told, the Bucs seem to have gotten more than a backup quarterback.

"Having been around a little bit … you kind of learn the way it's done," said Orlovsky, who turns 29 on Saturday. "Hopefully, I can just come in and impart that on Josh and be the person behind him.

"But make no bones about it. I know what my role is. I need to be ready to play. A big part of that is going out and practicing well. If I go out and practice well and prepare well like I'm the guy, then that will push Josh."

The Bucs' process of selecting a backup to replace Josh Johnson, now with the 49ers after the Bucs chose not to re-sign him, was not taken lightly. When coach Greg Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik mulled their options, Orlovsky stood out because he offered a package much greater than his pedestrian career numbers (14 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 75.9 rating).

"I know the guys that Dan has backed up," Schiano said. "They really enjoyed having him there with them because he works like he's the starter and he works to help the starter prepare to win games. He's a team guy."

Schiano, formerly at Rutgers, coached against Orlovsky when the quarterback played at Connecticut.

"(Coach) Randy Edsall used to tell me stories about his work ethic," Schiano said. "It was above and beyond. And he hasn't changed."

Orlovsky has opened eyes in training camp, with little dropoff evident when Freeman leaves the field. In two possessions of the Bucs' preseason opener at Miami on Friday, Orlovsky completed 8 of 8 passes for 91 yards.

"I would have confidence in him if we have to put him in a (regular-season) game," Schiano said.

The performance against the Dolphins likely will be forgotten when the regular season arrives, but it built credibility for Orlovsky.

"You can do it all in practice, and you can be smart in meetings," he said. "But until you go out and do it in games, that'll be the time when, if something did happen, (teammates) will have trust in me."

Those teammates might have thought otherwise if they based their opinions on Orlovsky's career 2-10 record as a starter. But context is important. Those starts came while playing for the winless 2008 Lions and last season's 2-14 Colts.

Orlovsky has made believers of his new teammates.

"He's a great leader," No. 3 quarterback Brett Ratliff said. "No matter what situation he's been faced with, he just approaches it the same way. He's a leader if he goes with the (third team). He's leader if he goes with the (starters). It doesn't matter. He's a natural. He's uplifting to the guys around him."

Most of all, the Bucs hope Orlovsky propels Freeman. In the process, they can rest assured the ever-prepared backup will be ready.

"I don't think me being No. 1 or No. 2 has ever changed my work ethic," he said.

"And I don't think it ever will."

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @BucsBeat.

Comments
Important questions and answers about Bucs’ draft parrot

Important questions and answers about Bucs’ draft parrot

The final days leading up to the NFL draft can be a busy time, but rarely do you call someone you trust from a team and say: "What can you tell me about the parrot?"Yes, the Bucs will have a parrot — specifically a Catalina macaw named Zsa Zsa ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Five options if the Bucs want to trade down from No. 7

Five options if the Bucs want to trade down from No. 7

For months, NFL fans have wondered what the Bucs might do with the No. 7 pick in Thursday's draft, producing a wide range of answers, each with passionate support from some of their fans.But as draft nears, and as the interest level in a talented gro...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Ex-Bucs QB Jeff Garcia doesn’t care about NFL draft: ‘I have a life’

Ex-Bucs QB Jeff Garcia doesn’t care about NFL draft: ‘I have a life’

So much of the attention Monday surrounding the Bucs' announcing who'd be announcing their late-round draft picks was, of course, that a parrot would be delivering the name of the fourth-round pick to the pirate ship at Raymond James Stadium.But late...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Breaking down the NFL draft with Sam Farmer

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Breaking down the NFL draft with Sam Farmer

On today's Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast, Rick Stroud breaks down the NFL draft with the Los Angeles Times' Sam Farmer.Farmer coordinates a mock draft with beat writers around the league, and it's usually one of the most accurate prognostications...
Updated: 2 hours ago
NFL Draft: Date, time, TV schedule and draft order for the April 26-28 draft

NFL Draft: Date, time, TV schedule and draft order for the April 26-28 draft

The NFL Draft starts Thursday from Arlington, Texas, with coverage of the first round beginning at 8 p.m. ET. Here's a look at the broadcast schedule for all three days and the draft order for every round:Schedule(all times Eastern)Thursday, April 26...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Polly want a sacker: Bucs’ 4th-round draft pick to be delivered by parrot

Polly want a sacker: Bucs’ 4th-round draft pick to be delivered by parrot

Late-round NFL draft picks are often made on a wing and a prayer.The Bucs' fourth-round pick Saturday will be no different. The team announced Monday that as part of the NFL draft TV broadcast, the team's fourth-round pick will be delivered to an ann...
Published: 04/23/18
How Baker Mayfield can benefit the Bucs

How Baker Mayfield can benefit the Bucs

TAMPA — The buzz surrounding this year's NFL draft is a class of talented quarterbacks deep enough to challenge the record six taken in the first round in 1983, a group that included future Hall of Famers John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino.Th...
Published: 04/22/18
Ex-NFL kicker Jay Feely apologizes for ‘joke’ gun photo

Ex-NFL kicker Jay Feely apologizes for ‘joke’ gun photo

Former NFL kicker Jay Feely, who was born in Odessa and starred at Tampa Jesuit, has apologized for a photo he intended as a joke, showing him holding a gun as he poses with his daughter and her prom date."Wishing my beautiful daughter and her date a...
Published: 04/22/18
Shaquem Griffin: ‘I’m not just a feel-good story’

Shaquem Griffin: ‘I’m not just a feel-good story’

TAMPA — Shaquem Griffin wakes up knowing each day will be better than the last and barely able to wait until tomorrow."It's just a whirlwind,'' Griffin said.On Thursday, he will walk the red carpet with his family, including his twin brother, S...
Published: 04/21/18
Bucs not listening to outsiders, but expectations remain high for 2018

Bucs not listening to outsiders, but expectations remain high for 2018

TAMPA —Wait 'til this year seems to be the refrain at One Buc Place, even though the team was strangled by expectations in 2017. But a solid offseason that has already brought a rebuilt defensive line, new center and place-kicker has renewed th...
Published: 04/21/18