TAMPA — CB Rashaan Melvin arrived at Northern Illinois as a walk-on, merely hoping to earn a scholarship.
He left having started 27 games, and his school-record 17 pass breakups as a senior helped the Mid-American Conference champion Huskies play in the Orange Bowl.
So you can see why it was not a deal-breaker for Melvin when no team selected him in the NFL draft in April. All he has done is have a solid training camp for the Bucs that has him in position to make the roster.
"Everybody wants to get drafted, but in reality, everybody doesn't," Melvin, 23, said. "For me, it was an opportunity to keep working and keep grinding and keep a chip on my shoulder; showing that drafted or undrafted, you still have to come out and play ball no matter what."
The Bucs said they aren't surprised by Melvin's play. Plenty of teams wanted him, but the Bucs made him their top target and offered the largest signing bonus.
"He's got physical tools," Bucs coach Greg Schiano said of the 6-foot-2, 193-pounder. "He works very hard at his preparation mentally. He's got a good temperament. I think he's got a chance to be a good player. Now that's a lot of pressure on an undrafted player. But every day he goes out there and practices and does a good job, if you keep stacking those on top of each other, he's got a chance."
Coaches say Melvin has earned an increasing number of practice reps, and he has maximized them, showing consistent playmaking. In many cases, those plays are coming against first- and second-teamers with the cornerback lineup shuffled a bit as Darrelle Revis (recovering from a torn left ACL) sits out full-speed drills.
"It's a better opportunity for me to showcase my talents," Melvin said of the opportunity.
Clayborn recovering: Schiano said that starting DE Adrian Clayborn's strained groin, sustained Wednesday, shouldn't keep him out long.
"It's going to be a few days, but it's not as bad as I originally thought," Schiano said.
Clayborn, who tore his right ACL last season, was further along than other players coming off 2012 injuries, including Revis, LG Carl Nicks (toe) and RG Davin Joseph (knee).
"He was hardly limited at all," Schiano said of Clayborn. "He was probably working at about 80 percent of the reps with the first-team guys."
Revis update: The team continue to be encouraged by Revis' progress. His workload was ramped up Thursday for the second straight day, and trainers are eager to see how his knee responds.
Pickup ball: While practice is usually heavily scripted, the Bucs played a little pickup Thursday, letting the offense and defense square off in a game-like situation aimed at preparing for next week's preseason opener.
"Put the ball on the 25-yard line and go play," Schiano said. "If you make a first down, you keep going. If you get stopped, you're off. We'll do a lot more of that, with coaches off the field, just to get prepared. Not so much for the older guys, but some of the younger kids. (They'll have) some of the position coaches telling them, 'Move out! Move in!' "
Stephen F. Holder can be reached at [email protected]