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Tampa Bay Bucs left tackle Donald Penn was antsy to get deal done

Fresh off signing his long-term deal, Donald Penn, right, is welcomed on the practice field by fullback Earnest Graham.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Fresh off signing his long-term deal, Donald Penn, right, is welcomed on the practice field by fullback Earnest Graham.

TAMPA — LT Donald Penn watched the weeks pass and the season grow nearer, and at some point, the reality of the situation hit him.

After holding out and declining the Bucs' one-year restricted free-agent tender of $3.168 million, the starting left tackle was faced with missing training camp.

"I called my agent a couple days ago," Penn said Saturday. "I told him, 'Dude, let's see what you can do. Do whatever it takes.' … When it was getting closer, it was like, 'Man, I've never missed a camp before. I don't want to do that. That's not the type of guy I am. Let's get it done. I'll make some sacrifices if I have to, but let's get it done.' "

That effort resulted in Penn and the Bucs coming to terms on a six-year, $48 million deal that includes $20 million in guaranteed payouts, in time for him to make the first practice of training camp.

Penn took a red-eye flight from his home in Los Angeles, arrived in Tampa early Saturday, signed the deal and was on the practice field midway through the first of the day's two workouts.

Penn, 27, was faced with options that included playing the season under the $3.168 million deal, then entering unrestricted free agency next spring. But the financial security he sought for his family influenced him not to roll the dice. Penn also was motivated by the situation of friend Chad Jones, the Giants' third-round draft pick this year who was involved in a June car wreck and waived last week because of his career-threatening leg injury.

"I got a 20-month-old son at home," Penn said. "You never know what tomorrow is going to entail.

"If I had gone out this year — knock on wood, I'm not injury-prone — but what if I got hurt? Where would that have left me?"

The Bucs were worried about where they'd be without Penn. Had he held out, his replacement was likely to be project Demar Dotson, a converted basketball player who has one year of experience at tackle.

"I think I'll sleep a lot better," QB Josh Freeman said of having Penn to protect his blind side.

Penn stepped into the starting lineup during the day's second practice, showing no physical effects after missing the offseason work. He will have to brush up on the X's and O's that have been installed.

ROUGH START: As is often the case, the offense was well behind the defense on the first day of practice. There were dropped passes, errant throws and other ragged play.

Freeman and backup QB Josh Johnson weren't sharp, but after six weeks off between minicamp and training camp, that expected.

"You're going to have fumbled snaps, you're going to have nervous jitters, all that stuff," coach Raheem Morris said. "You want to get angry, and you will. I'll go yell at them when I go talk to those guys. But you expect it. They'll come out and do a great job of correcting it.

"You'll see practice get better and better. You'll see things get more crisp."

Freeman said: "You always strive to be better. I definitely think that after the break, things are going to be a little bit rusty. But at the same time, guys came back and were working. This first practice is the practice to shake the rust off."

WHAT ABOUT RUUD? Morris, in an effort to head off discontent from Barrett Ruud, went to see the linebacker Friday and informed him that Penn would be getting a lucrative contract extension, something Ruud has been seeking for more than a year.

"I went straight to Barrett," Morris said. "I said: 'Here's Penn's deal. He's going to be here. Want to know what you got to do? Let's get focused, let's go out here and be the best Buc you can be.' "

Ruud didn't talk to reporters Saturday.

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at sholder@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay Bucs left tackle Donald Penn was antsy to get deal done 07/31/10 [Last modified: Sunday, August 1, 2010 1:38pm]
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