NASHVILLE — Ali Marpet's move to left guard, his third position in as many years, has been pretty seamless. A big reason for that is his close relationship with left tackle Donovan Smith.
Both came to the Bucs as second-round picks in 2015, Smith from football tradition-laden Penn State and Marpet from Div. III Hobart College.
They have established a relationship that enables them to communicate at a high level on the field. But this is the first time Marpet has lined up next to Smith. That didn't happen as a rookie when he played right guard, or last season when he moved to center.
"Oh, it's fun. I think Donovan and I have a good time,'' Marpet said. "We know how each other plays. We know how to communicate with each other. It went pretty well.
"It's awesome. You know, I think it's extremely important between any position group to be close, but especially the offensive line. And I think having that closeness allows us to play better, at a higher level, so it's good for us. We know how each other plays. Everybody is different. Some guys take steps, whether they're long or short or whatever. We have a good feel for each other.''
The Bucs had success running behind Smith and Marpet in the first preseason game against the Dolphins. Running back Peyton Barber rushed four times for 21 yards, including a touchdown.
The Bucs would like to lock up both players to contract negotiations, and preliminary talks began this week with Marpet's representatives. But Marpet refuses to focus on the looming pay day, which could net him $8-10 million per year.
"So I think as soon as you start thinking about contracts and all that stuff, is when your level of play falls off,'' Marpet said. "You just have to focus on getting better every day. That's what got you on the field. You have to hope that's good enough to get you the next contract. That's all you can do. Just do the best job you can in front of you.''