Noah Spence said he wanted to play. A lot. More than he had in any preseason game.
Spence, 24, missed much of the last season with a recurring shoulder injury and underwent surgery. He had only one tackle entering Thursday's game against the Jaguars. He said he was excited to get to play the entire second half.
"Yeah, for sure. Like I was saying, man, I'm still one of the youngest dudes in the (defensive line) room," Spence said. "Even with the new guys in there, I'm still one of the youngest people in there. It's not like I'm just going to be out here tonight. I mean, we're starting over."
The Bucs did not have defensive end Will Clarke in uniform Thursday. But Spence saw it as a great opportunity to alter opinions on his play.
"I knew I was going to play. It felt great, man," Spence said. "I've been itching for it. It felt great to be running out there and making calls, making tackles and everything like that. A real blessing to be out there."
Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said Spence proved he isn't just a pass rusher Thursday.
"I think it was great for Noah to do that,' Koetter said. "Because coaching-wise sometimes, we do pigeonhole guys as just this and only that. I know Noah. I talked to him at halftime. I know he was having fun playing on every down. Hey, all the guys start playing because it's fun."
The question is whether Spence has played well enough to stick on the team. With all the acquisitions the Bucs made on the defensive line, it could come down to Spence or Clarke, who would seem to have the edge. A trade is also a possibility with Spence's pedigree.