TAMPA — Leave it to Kyle Trask to keep his sunny disposition on what otherwise could have been one of the darker days of his career.
For about six weeks, the former Florida Gators star was looking forward to competing for the Bucs starting quarterback job with Blaine Gabbert.
Then Tom Brady announced he was ending his retirement and returning to Tampa Bay.
Worse, a couple of weeks ago, quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen declared that Trask had no chance of unseating Gabbert as Brady’s backup.
But when asked Tuesday about the likelihood of spending what amounts to another redshirt season in the NFL, Trask reacted with a shoulder shrug.
“I don’t really look it like that, you know?” he said. “You know, (Brady) had his own situation and he made whatever decision he felt was best for the point that he was at in his career, and I’m just excited to be here playing football. I’m able to take really good reps here at OTAs, competing out here, and all I can do is keep getting better.”
As for Christensen declaring that he didn’t see Trask “competing with Gabbert this year,” the second-year pro ducked that one like an oncoming blitzer.
“For me, personally, I’m just worried about what I can control and I love to compete,” he said. “Me and Blaine have been having a really good past couple weeks of OTAs, and we all love playing football and competing.”
The passes Trask was attempting to control during the Bucs’ organized team activities Tuesday weren’t complying.
He missed receivers badly during individual drills on several sideline routes. It didn’t get much better to start 11-on-11 work when Trask was nearly intercepted by safety Logan Ryan. Trask rallied and ripped a touchdown pass over the middle to Scotty Miller.
That’s kind of how it’s gone for Trask in the offseason. He’s improved his knowledge of the offense, but the Bucs would still like to see him complete more passes in practice. With Brady staying away from the voluntary workouts, Trask has been splitting reps during the team work with Gabbert.
“I think I’ve been doing pretty good,” Trask said. “I’ve definitely made a lot of improvements from last year. I got a lot more confidence in the playbook. Still working on just cleaning up the small things. Just find as many completions as you can. That’s really what this game is all about. ... But I’m on the right track.”
One of the more tangible improvements for Trask has been his body. Having lost seven or eight pounds, he’s leaner and, as a result, his feet aren’t nearly as heavy in the pocket.
“That was probably one of the first things I noticed whenever I got here last year was the speed of the game,” Trask said. “So, all throughout last year, I really tried to clean up my eating and trimmed down and get as quick on my feet as possible.”
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But Trask knows his path to becoming an NFL starter will be the long route he has traveled before.
Being undervalued has been the story of his football career. He backed up former Miami quarterback D’Eriq King in high school in Texas. He sat for two years behind Feleipe Franks at Florida before becoming a Heisman Trophy finalist by passing for 4,283 yards and 43 touchdowns in his final season.
But Trask values competition over complacency. The truth is, he has never wanted to be in the position of understudy, even if he has benefitted from it.
”That’s never been my mindset, that I’m going to get there and I’m going to sit and learn and take my opportunity when it arises,” he said. “I’ve always been the one, I want to compete every single day. But along my journey, that’s been, I guess, the road I’ve taken. I guess by default I’ve had to sit and learn and keep grinding.”
What probably doesn’t help Trask is watching other quarterbacks from his draft class, such as Alabama’s Mac Jones, play so well as rookies. Trask matched Jones pass for pass in one of their epic encounters in the SEC title game.
Bucs head coach Todd Bowles says he’s pleased what he has seen from Trask, but it’s non-contact workouts during the offseason and the quarterbacks have a big advantage.
“His accuracy has been good,” Bowles said. “Again, we’re out there in shorts and t-shirts, so they know they’re not going to get hit. The accuracy is going to be good from every quarterback. But he’s picking the scheme well, he’s making all the right reads right now, and we’re getting to see him in some competitive periods. That’s making him make some quick decisions, and we like what we see.”
When will see Trask in a regular-season game for the Bucs? A lot depends on how long Brady plays.
“He prepares more than what I’m sure a lot of quarterbacks are willing to do,” Trask said. “That’s kind of what separates him. Ultimately, it comes down to his love for the game and wanting to be the best. That’s just really a special opportunity for me to be able to see that first-hand and, you know, I’m just going to keep stacking the days and see how much more I can learn from him this year.”
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