TAMPA — A heavy burden comes with greatness, the weight of expectations that can slow progress.
Bucs inside linebacker Devin White experienced that last season. As a result, he hopes less will be more as he prepares to shed about 5 pounds so he can remain fresh in the fourth quarter.
“For myself to tap into another level, I know all the accolades, but for myself, it’s being consistent — with my diet, with my training,” White said Wednesday. “Doing extra to make sure that the fourth quarter still feels like the second quarter to me. I think as a young player, you kind of slack off in some of those areas. Because you’re young, you say, ‘I know I can run.’
“I think I’ve got to be more consistent on myself and do what’s best for me, and I’ve got to put those things in order to know what’s best for me. For myself, that’s asking my coach, what do you think I need to play? Here’s where I need to be. Don’t go get Chick-fil-A Sunday or Monday because I had a good game Sunday.”
A year ago, the 6-foot White says he played at around 240 pounds. This year, he believes his performance will be enhanced by weighing about 235.
“I want to be way lighter,” White said. “I came in my rookie year, I was 237. But I need to see that as a trend. I went up. I don’t need to go up. I need to stay consistent down and just do the right thing.”
White was named to his first Pro Bowl last season after leading the Bucs with 128 tackles. But his production dipped in other areas. He went from nine sacks in 2020 to 3½ in 2021. The game-changing splash plays, so prevalent during the Bucs’ run to the Super Bowl 55 championship, also were missing. He had no interceptions or forced fumbles.
“We were just watching the sack tape, and when I was going 100 mph, you don’t even have to be an athletic quarterback or nothing because they can just sidestep you because you’re going so fast and you can’t stop your momentum,” White said. “Stuff like that. Everything I do, I’ve got to play under control.
“I always try to use my speed just to make up because I know I’m fast, but now I’ve got to be more brains than speed.”
White always has been an instinctive player who relies on his size, strength and speed. But he wants to improve his understanding of the game. That means more film study.
On Tuesday, White referenced former Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, a seven-time Pro Bowler and NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2013.
Stay updated on the Buccaneers
Subscribe to our free Bucs RedZone newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
“Keep getting into the film, because that’s kind of the next step that me and (co-defensive coordinator Larry) Foote talked about,” White said. “That Luke Kuechly step. I have way more athleticism than him, but he (has) way more brains, and brains play a big factor in a football game.”
The turnout for Wednesday’s voluntary workout was impressive. You could almost count the number of players who weren’t present, a list that included quarterback Tom Brady, running back Leonard Fournette, wide receiver Chris Godwin and cornerback Carlton Davis.
“Just the guys trying to get better,” coach Todd Bowles said. “I mean, it’s been great. It’s voluntary anyways, but guys have things they have to do. Or some are excused as well. They don’t need to be excused, but they are excused. But the fact that they want to be here says a lot about them.”
With players such as outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh no longer on the roster, White said he will need to add to his leadership role.
“Obviously, we’re going to take on more, but we want other guys to step up,” White said.
White said he still stings from the way last season ended, losing on a last-second field goal to the Rams in a division-round playoff game.
“I kept telling everybody in the locker room, ‘Whoever wins this game is going to win the Super Bowl,’ " White said. “Because we both had a great balance of offense and defense. And when we were in the locker room, man, if they had cameras in there, they’d tell you. ‘Man, we’re coming back. We’re going to come back. The ball is going to be punched and come our way.’
“And it did. I think we capitalized on it, but at the end, it’s one missed opportunity. Obviously, you can’t dwell on it. But it adds fuel to the fire for this year. Right now, it’s Super Bowl or nothing. We know that. I stand in front of all the cameras, that’s the only goal. That’s what we want. That’s our only goal.”
Contact Rick Stroud at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @NFLSTROUD.
• • •
Sign up for the Bucs RedZone newsletter to get updates and analysis on the latest team and NFL news from Bucs beat writer Joey Knight.