TAMPA — Adarius Taylor came to the Bucs in the final month of the 2015 season after he was cut by the Panthers, and coach Dirk Koetter remembers when Taylor was a scout-team linebacker who knew Carolina's defense a little too well.
"I used to be screaming at him every day because he wasn't giving the look I wanted," said Koetter, then the Bucs' offensive coordinator. "He … was trying to tell me 'Coach, that's not how Carolina plays it.' 'Well, that's how I want you to play it.' "
Fast forward to this training camp, and Taylor — he legally changed his name this offseason from Glanton -— is working as the starting strongside linebacker while Kendell Beckwith recovers from a fractured ankle suffered in a car accident in March.
"The evolution of Adarius," Koetter said. "Now he's one of our best special-teams players. He can play all three linebacker spots. … Just a real enjoyable guy and a tough, versatile football player. Versatility at any position helps, and he's got it."
Taylor, 27, has gone through a lot in the past eight months. His season ended early last year when he broke a leg in a game in December, but he recovered quickly enough to practice fully in the spring, getting re-signed on a one-year, $1.04 million deal.
He got married in February, and he and his wife, Kristen, took his new last name. He was given his mother's last name when he was born but had wanted to have the name of his father, who died when Taylor was a freshman in high school.
"I felt like that was the right thing for me and something I wanted to do," Taylor said.
Taylor showed his flexibility at the end of the 2016 season, filling in as an emergency long snapper despite a broken finger and snapping on the winning extra point in a 17-16 win against the Panthers. Last season he filled in as a starter when Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander missed games with injuries. He started four games and finished with 31 tackles, more than in his first three NFL seasons combined.
"He's started really at all positions for us ," linebackers coach Mark Duffner said of the middle, weakside and strongside jobs. "He played all of those (Saturday) in practice with the first group. He's a guy we feel is a starter for us, and he's still just scratching the surface. This rascal is a guy we can count on, and he wants to be a player."
For now, Taylor is the starting strongside linebacker until Beckwith is healthy and the top backup at the other two linebacker spots, eager to shine in whatever role is called for.
"I'm really excited. I couldn't wait," Taylor said of the start of camp. "It was a long journey for me. I'm so happy to be back."
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