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Veteran Jermaine Phillips is proving his value as a linebacker for Tampa Bay Buccaneers

TAMPA — Linebackers coach Joe Barry appears convinced that what the Bucs initially considered an "experiment" — switching Jermaine Phillips from safety to weakside linebacker — "is going to become a heck of a deal."

"Phillips is a (weakside) linebacker," Barry said of the eight-year veteran. "He's proven he can do it; he's getting more comfortable with it every day."

So much so that Phillips has the Bucs excited about what his physical play and speed can bring to the position, even if he has the unenviable task of replacing Derrick Brooks.

"Buccaneer linebackers, we've always had guys who really could run," Barry said. "But I think Flip brings that dimension of speed and athleticism to the table. He's a defensive back playing linebacker, and he's a 230-pound defensive back playing linebacker, so I'm excited about it.

"I think that's going to bring something to our defense that we haven't had."

Phillips, 30, said he's just trying to execute and get the details down on the small things. "Once you get the small things, it'll become second nature to you — everything else will come."

A great fit: CB Aqib Talib said he is more comfortable coming into his second season but admitted he "feels like a rookie again" with the new defensive schemes under defensive coordinator Jim Bates.

But Talib is embracing the opportunity for a bigger role. "We're definitely going to play a lot more man, more bump and run. So it'll be a lot more physical, with a lot less thinking and a lot more playing."

Injury update: Coach Raheem Morris said FB Byron Storer had a significant setback in his attempt to return from a season-ending right knee injury suffered in October against Carolina. … Talib was one of several players, including DE Stylez G. White, present but not participating in Wednesday's workout. Both have minor injuries.

Tidbits: There were several veterans, including TE Kellen Winslow, LB Barrett Ruud and WR Maurice Stovall, not at the voluntary workouts. The Bucs were aware they would be absent. … Former Texas Tech WR Joel Filani signed.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com.

Veteran Jermaine Phillips is proving his value as a linebacker for Tampa Bay Buccaneers 05/13/09 [Last modified: Thursday, May 14, 2009 7:15am]

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