TAMPA — DT Ryan Sims has started two games in two seasons with the Bucs, but the former first-round draft pick is preparing for a bigger role this fall as a starter and a leader.
"They got rid of a lot of our leaders," Sims said after Tuesday's voluntary workout. "We went from one of the oldest to one of the youngest teams. … (So) It's more of leadership, using (seven) years of experience to do things the new coaches like, trying to teach the new guys and the rookies. I like that. It makes you come to work every day, mentally and physically."
Sims had 27 tackles last year and 23 in 2007, his first season with the Bucs, but he's confident that a new defensive scheme is better suited to his 6-foot-4, 315-pound frame.
"It's more about attacking the man in front of you and using power, where (Monte) Kiffin's defense was mostly speed and quickness," Sims said. "It's a different philosophy. This is a power, stop-them-up-front, stop-the-run defense."
When Sims was acquired from Kansas City two years ago, he was surprised by the lack of size on the line, especially inside.
"When I first came here, I was like, "This has got to be the smallest defensive line I've ever seen in my life,' " Sims said. "I'm the biggest guy, and I'm at 315. When I was at Kansas City, I was considered one of the smallest (defensive) tackles in the AFC."
Sims said the bigger look up front will help this fall, as early as Week 1, when the Cowboys and mammoth guard Leonard Davis come to Tampa. "We have to play the NFC East," he said. "In Dallas, they come at you at 370."
Only three teams gave up fewer rushing touchdowns than the Bucs last season, but opponents averaged 4.3 yards per carry, a mark that ranked 21st in the league. Sims, who will rotate with 310-pound rookie Roy Miller and 296-pound veteran Chris Hovan, thinks the run defense will improve under Jim Bates.
"Now in the NFL, run stopping has become so critical in November and December. This is the first defense that the coaches really notice the importance of that and desire it," Sims said. "When you have a lot of sack guys, sometimes it's great. But when you have a lot of small guys, when it's cold and it's third and 1, that's football time."
THIS AND THAT: One key position battle is at backup linebacker, where newcomers Rod Wilson and Niko Koutouvides could be standouts on special teams.
"Rod Wilson was a good (special) teams player in Chicago, and Koutouvides really made his bones in this league as a heck of a teams player," unit coach Rich Bisaccia said. "We tried to get our hands on him a few years ago and couldn't, so we're excited about what both of those guys bring us on teams. They have a fight on their hands at linebacker."
They'll compete with returning special-teams leaders such as third-year LBs Quincy Black and Adam Heyward and second-year pro Geno Hayes.
"Everybody always says, 'That guy will make it on teams, that guy will make it at linebacker, but one hand washes the other," Bisaccia said. "You have to be able to do both."
Bisaccia joked that he'd like to have rookie QB Josh Freeman on special teams. "He probably has the best body type" of the rookies, he said. "A 6-6 guy, we'd take him somewhere."
Around the league
NORFOLK, Va. — A judge who rejected Michael Vick's first bankruptcy plan warned the suspended star's lawyers that they have just one more chance to file a workable proposal for repaying the millions he owes to creditors. As Vick sat silently, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Frank Santoro set a July 2 deadline for a revised Chapter 11 plan. A hearing to confirm or reject the plan was set for Aug. 27.
HARPER SENTENCED: Former Bears FB Roland Harper was sentenced to a year of house arrest for acting as a front man in a $1.5 million fraud involving a landscaping contract for Chicago public schools. U.S. District Judge John W. Darrah also sentenced Harper, 56, to a fine and two years of probation.
TAYLOR CASE: Four of the five men charged with killing Redskins All-Pro safety Sean Taylor had a hearing to push back their trial date for a third time. The trial is now set for Jan. 18.
OBITUARY: Pio Sagapolutele, a defensive lineman who started in the 1997 Super Bowl for New England, died Saturday. He was 39. The Plain Dealer of Cleveland said Sagapolutele, who also played for the Browns, died of an aneurism in Chandler, Ariz., where he lived.
Information from Times wires was used in this report.