TAMPA — Though TE Dallas Clark was one of the Bucs' key free agent acquisitions in the offseason, fans haven't gotten to see very much of him.
Clark, 33, held out of the first preseason game at Miami, played only a few series Friday against the Titans. Part of it is Tampa Bay being judicious with how it uses the veteran, who has battled injuries while playing just 17 games over the past two seasons.
But Clark said he, along with the first-team offense, expects to see more action Friday against the Patriots. He hopes to build on how good he already feels about his grasp of the offense and the chemistry with QB Josh Freeman.
"That's going to keep growing; just getting on the same page and get a feel for each play and the certain coverages and how we're reading it, how he reads it, where he needs me to be," Clark said.
"Just getting all that stuff comes with time. You can sit in a meeting room and do it and talk about it. But once you go on the field and actually run that play, that's when the most learning takes place."
Clark is replacing Kellen Winslow, who caught 218 passes over his three seasons in Tampa Bay. Though it remains to be seen how the tight end position is used in coach Greg Schiano's offense, Freeman expects Clark to be a significant addition.
"This preseason, you want to get him some looks. But at the same time, we've got a number of guys I feel they want to get reps," Freeman said. "Me and Dallas, our chemistry has been great. He's been making a lot of plays in practice, and I'm really excited to move forward into the season with him."
MESSAGE SENT: Schiano had a large, digital clock installed in the locker room counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until kickoff of the regular-season opener against Carolina. A Panthers logo is on the clock.
Backup QB Dan Orlovsky, who has played for three other teams, said he has never been in a locker room with that kind of clock.
"I think it's a visual tool," Orlovsky said.
Schiano has made other not-so-subtle changes to the locker room.
In the past, players' lockers have been grouped by position. But this year, Schiano has mixed and matched positions and personalities. WR Mike Williams is next to G Davin Joseph. Freeman's locker neighbor is G Ted Larsen. CB Aqib Talib and LB Quincy Black are together. So are WR Vincent Jackson and CB Myron Lewis.
TOUGH TIQUAN: WR Tiquan Underwood is grateful and thankful for his experience with the Patriots last season, even if it ended in one of the most heartbreaking ways possible: getting cut the day before the Super Bowl.
New England wanted to get another defensive lineman on the roster and added Alex Silvestro, another Rutgers product. It marked the third time Underwood was released that season.
Underwood said there were no hard feelings, pointing out coach Bill Belichick typically handles his depth chart decisions on Saturdays and always puts the team first.
"I just happened to be one of the latter guys on the depth chart," Underwood said.
"It's part of the business. I understand that. Now I'm trying to put myself in a better position so that when those decisions are made, I'm not going to be one of the guys that can be released."
GATOR BAIT: Former Gators RB Jeff Demps went through his first NFL practice Wednesday at One Buc Place.
Though Tampa Bay hoped Demps, who won a silver medal in the London Olympics as part of the U.S. 400-meter relay team, would be wearing its jersey, he signed with New England on Friday. Demps said it wasn't a tough decision.
"Once I talked to the Patriots, I kind of got the feeling that's where I wanted to be," Demps said. "Everything was family based. (I felt) like I was already part of the team."
MISCELLANY: The starting time of the Aug. 29 preseason game at Washington has been changed from 7:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. … Schiano said CB Eric Wright is fine after sustaining an undisclosed injury Tuesday. … RB LeGarrette Blount, who left Friday's game with a groin injury, expects to play against the Patriots.
Times staff writer Rick Stroud contributed to this report. Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]