TAMPA — Bucs free agent MLB Barrett Ruud has come to terms with his reality: He can do nothing about matters controlled by forces beyond his reach.
He can't influence the decisions of federal judges hearing complex arguments between the NFL and its players. And nothing he personally does will put an end to this two-month-old NFL lockout that is preventing him from advancing to the next stage of his career.
So, Ruud is left with this: Whenever football begins again, he'll be evaluated by what he has done, which he feels is quite impressive — thank you very much.
When the lockout is lifted, and free agents are permitted to sign contracts, Ruud believes he'll have a solid reputation with clubs — whether the Bucs or others — based on his past play. It's the only thing he's sure about in a time of widespread uncertainty.
"That part I'm comfortable with," Ruud said. "The four years I've been starting, I've been pretty productive. That part doesn't worry me too much. What does worry you is things like, how long will free agency be? What will the mood of free agency be? We are kind of the first class in history to (hit the market) after a draft.
"I'm sure teams have already scouted all the (free agents) they're interested in, but what will their thoughts be if the lockout ends, say, Aug. 15? What's their thoughts on free agency then? That's the stuff you kind of stress about. But the productivity and what I have as a resume, that stuff doesn't bother me."
If you listen to talk radio — hardly a cross section — you quickly learn Ruud has detractors. But Ruud is proud to be the guy who can say he is Tampa Bay's leading tackler the past four seasons, during which he has been the starting middle linebacker, essentially the quarterback of the defense.
Still, he hears constant criticisms of his game from fans who say he's, well, soft. Give Ruud credit for perspective. When the topic is raised, he basically laughs it off.
"It's not like there are a ton of people that hate me," he said. "They just happen to be very vocal."
Ruud won't even speculate on the chances of a return to Tampa Bay. The Bucs drafted Washington LB Mason Foster last month and have initial plans to use him as a middle linebacker, something that would give the team significant leverage in any potential negotiations with Ruud and makes his departure more likely.
But wherever Ruud ends up, he remains confident that team will know full well the sort of player it's getting. In his opinion, the videotape speaks for itself.
PRICE GETTING RIGHT: DT Brian Price is back in Tampa continuing his rehab from the pelvic fracture that cost him most of his rookie season last fall, and he admits the road back is long.
But Price said missing out on last season has made him hungrier.
"I'm easing my way back," said Price, who is working with a personal trainer at a local gym. "I'm not worrying about it. It's a rare injury, but everybody goes through something. I don't play this game for money. I just want to be great. I want to be in the Hall of Fame. I'm focused. I don't even have a haircut right now. I look grimy. I'm just working, man."
Price, who is working with injured teammate Arrelious Benn, said part of his reason for returning to the Tampa area from his home in Los Angeles was to avoid distractions from friends and family.
During the brief time the NFL lockout was lifted last month (before an appeals court issued a stay of the lower court's ruling), Price checked in at One Buc Place to consult with the training staff. The staff gave him clearance to proceed to the next phase, so Price is running lightly and doing more cardio. He has even added Zumba dance classes to his routine, though he joked he's often the only male student in the sessions. Also, self-defense and boxing classes offer dual benefits: conditioning and improving hand use, the latter of which helps in shedding blockers.
And much of the motivation for all of this goes back to his inability to help the Bucs last season, when the 2010 second-round pick spent 11 games on injured reserve and was severely limited as early as offseason workouts.
"I didn't really watch too many games," Price said. "It was kind of depressing. I'd never really been hurt before. I'd been really blessed. … I have a mind-set now where I never want to be in this position again. I want to make this a great journey."