Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

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 Follow him on Twitter at @BucsBeat.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Dan Orlovsky does more than back up 08/15/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 9:04pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays journal: Jake Faria heads to DL with left abdominal strain

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Jacob Faria made the trek he didn't want to take after his last start. It was to the trainer's room. The pain in his left abdominal went from nagging to an issue during his start that night in Toronto.

    A BIG DAY: Adeiny Hechavarria gets a hug from Steven Souza Jr. after hitting a two-run home run in the seventh. Hechavarria also triples and ends the game with a  stellar play at shortstop.
  2. Rays up next: vs. Blue Jays, 7:10 p.m. Tuesday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: Off

    Up next: vs. Blue Jays, 7:10 p.m. Tuesday, Tropicana Field.

  3. Tom Jones' Two Cents: Bucs, Jaguars both get blame for terrible preseason ratings

    TV and Radio

    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst of a weekend in televised sports.

    Worst matchup

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) tries to get past Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Brian Dixon (41) and safety Barry Church (42) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack) JVS119
  4. Roger Mooney's takeaways from Sunday's Rays-Mariners game

    The Heater

    This is the Blake Snell everyone has been waiting for. Working off his fastball. Challenging hitters. Staying focused regardless of how many runners are on base. Snell has pitched at least six innings for three straight starts. He had a rough start to the year, but it looks like he has figured it out.

  5. Blake Snell shines as Rays beat Mariners to end skid (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Blake Snell delivered the best outing of his young career and the Rays offense continued its home run-hitting ways for a 3-0 victory Sunday against the Mariners in front of 13,354 at Tropicana Field.

    Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) with starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) after the top of the seventh inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017.