TAMPA — Second-year Bucs tight end Cade Otton had a chance to meet Rob Gronkowski through mutual friends this offseason. He ended up playing board games against the former Bucs and Patriots star.
“I lost,” Otton said of the board games he challenged Gronk to.
But maybe the Bucs win.
Otton, 24, used that time to pick Gronk’s brain about their position, and he showed up to Tampa Bay’s voluntary workouts ready to be an impact player.
“I ultimately want to be an every-down tight end. Just never come off the field and be a big contributor in the run game, in the pass game,” Otton said after voluntary workouts Tuesday at the AdventHealth Training Center.
“Have the coaches be able to trust me on the front side of run plays to take care of defensive ends, then also to win one-on-one versus safeties. And so you’ve seen some of the greats do that like Gronk, and Travis (Kelce) and George (Kittle), and so just want to look at the greats in the game and try and emulate them.”
As a rookie, Otton had 42 receptions for 391 yards and two touchdowns. He was coming off an ankle injury that required surgery. He also had veteran tight ends Cameron Brate and Kyle Rudolph competing with him, but they are no longer with the Bucs, giving him more of an opportunity.
“It’s just been great to have a full offseason to work with the strength staff and to work on my nutrition and just really focus on building myself from the ground up as a football player,” Otton said. “Getting ready physically for a long season. I hadn’t played a season like I had last year ever. Now, just knowing what it takes to go deep into the regular season with a good record and then our goal is to win the Super Bowl every year. So that’s what we’re gearing up to do and individually just trying to work on what I can do to be the best player I can be.”
Otton had an unusual introduction to the NFL, playing with all-time great Tom Brady as his quarterback. Now that Brady has retired, things are a little different around the Bucs with new quarterbacks competing to start, and a new offense and offensive coordinator. He said he sees a good competition between quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask.
“It’s different. It was my rookie year and it was the only thing I had known in the NFL, but I imagine there’s nothing quite like playing with Tom. Just how demanding he is and stuff,” Otton said.
“But I think that the guys we have in the quarterback room now are really demanding, too, really competitive in their own way, and everyone has a different way of showing that and I’m excited to get to see how they do that going forward through these (organized team activities) and then going into fall camp.”
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After his first workout with the Bucs, Mayfield might have let it slip that wide receiver Russell Gage is injured. When asked about his new receivers, Mayfield said, “(Russell had) a little bit of an injury last week.”
There were no further details, but if Gage is injured, it is certainly a concern.
Gage was injured in training camp last year and ended the season with a neck injury and concussion that had him exit the playoff game against Dallas. In March, Gage agreed to a pay cut to stay in Tampa Bay.
Receiver Chris Godwin and safety Antoine Winfield Jr. were among the more notable veterans who attended Tuesday’s voluntary workouts.
They were joined by several other starters such as outside linebacker Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, defensive lineman Logan Hall, left tackle Tristan Wirfs and center/guard Robert Hainsey.
Not participating were linebackers Devin White and Lavonte David, receiver Mike Evans and cornerbacks Jamel Dean and Carlton Davis.
“I think we had a good turnout,” Bucs coach Todd Bowles said. “Again, it’s voluntary. I can stress it all I want, but it’s voluntary. Certain guys have excuses. We know where they are and we’ll go from there.”
Times staff writer Rick Stroud contributed to this report.
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