1. Bucs

Bucs' Brate excels on field, needs work on garbage time

Bucs tight end Cameron Brate secures a first-down catch in Sunday’s victory over the Bears at Raymond James Stadium. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
Bucs tight end Cameron Brate secures a first-down catch in Sunday’s victory over the Bears at Raymond James Stadium. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
Published Nov. 20, 2016

TAMPA — What is it the Yalies say? You can always tell a Harvard man, but you can't tell him much.

Maybe that's why Cameron Brate, a Harvard man, wasn't behaving like the smartest guy in the room, or at least the townhouse he shares with receiver Adam Humphries and quarterback Ryan Griffin. Last week, for the first time since the Odd Triple moved in together in June, Brate got some garbage minutes.

Not on the field. Brate is a Bucs starter and tied for the NFL lead among tight ends with five touchdowns this season, three shy of the club record for his position. He's a Fantasy Football hero, a go-to guy in the red zone and a big reason for Tampa Bay's faint hopes of a winning record this season.

He also has poor eyesight, says he can't hear very well and just last week learned how to take out the trash.

"We had to teach him how to tie the bags together though," Humphries said. "Kind of like tying a shoe. Not too hard. Yeah, he was taking the trash out this past week and he was bragging. 'Yo, check this out. I'm taking the trash out.' If you have to brag about taking the trash out, something's wrong."

Like Humphries and Griffin, Brate was an undrafted free agent. All three have been cut at least once and relegated to a practice squad before making a 53-man roster. The uncertain nature of the NFL, which can last as long as a cup of coffee and a 40-yard dash, made them revert to a college living arrangement.

"It works. It somehow works," Brate, 25, said. "Each of us does our own thing, but it ends up being okay. They always get on me for not providing anything for the room and lately I've been trying to do more and more and make sure they notice when I do stuff.

"Oh, you should've seen Sunday and the mess these guys left, and I cleaned up. It was unbelievable. Oh, yeah, I've been really pulling my weight lately."

Griffin and Brate do most of the cooking.

"He handles the meats," Brate said. "We do a lot of fish. I'm mostly the vegetables, the side dish kind of guy. And I take pride in that role. Usually like mixed greens. I will saute some vegetables. I get after it."

Humphries can only cook the rice in a microwave.

"I just think it's better for our taste buds if Cam and I prepare the food and Adam eats it and gives us the review," Griffin said.

All three could earn fat paychecks in the future. Brate and Humphries are tied for second on the team with 35 receptions and when Mike Glennon leaves via free agency, Griffin will be the No. 2 quarterback behind Jameis Winston next season.

But it was a humble beginning in the NFL for all three players. In 2014, Brate finished his last exam for his economics degree last summer in the lobby of a Minnesota hotel while trying out at Vikings rookie minicamp. He spent most of his rookie year on the Bucs practice squad, catching one pass for 17 yards. Last year with the Bucs, he nervously asked then-coach Lovie Smith for permission to miss a day of practice to return to Harvard for graduation ceremonies.

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Then the unthinkable happened. The Bucs released Brate and he was signed to the Saints practice squad. The Bucs played at New Orleans that week, and a few days after the game, they swiped Brate back and put him on the active roster.

Humphries, 23, who had more than 1,000 yards receiving at Clemson, was signed from a rookie tryout camp. He began last season on the team's practice squad but was promoted when Vincent Jackson was injured. This year, he's the starting slot receiver.

At 27, Griffin is the old man of the group, an undrafted free agent from Tulane in 2013, he spent parts of two years shuttling between the Saints practice squad and active roster before the Bucs claimed him off waivers at the start of last season.

Brate made himself into a solid pass catcher by spending extra time after practice with Bucs quarterbacks.

"Oh yeah, he's always had good hands" Griffin said of Brate. "And he's like blind, too. He like should be wearing glasses and he's not. So it's more impressive to me. Somehow he's just catching blobs.

"I wish he'd wear those basketball specs. That would be sweet. That be a good look for him. That would be real Harvard."

Brate doesn't disagree: "I can't see. I can't see or hear. Maybe if I got contacts or something it might be better.''

But it might change your game?

"Exactly, that's why I'm going to stick with what works," Brate said.

Often TV can break up roommates. But ownership matters, in this case, and since Humphries bought it, he controls the remote.

"We try to watch the same shows," Brate said. "Be on the same page. We were big into Entourage in the spring and we watched everything back through.

"We're kind of in show limbo right now trying to find a new show."

Meanwhile, Brate is starring in the Bucs' offensive show on Sunday afternoons. He is the reason that coach Dirk Koetter felt comfortable releasing tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins after Seferian-Jenkins was charged with DUI in September.

At this pace, Brate would finish the season with 62 receptions for 666 yards and nine touchdowns.

"Cam has always been a good athlete and you would see it," offensive coordinator Todd Monken said. "I think that he's improved in his attention to detail, he's improved in his blocking, he's improved in his route running and that's only going to come through experience, playing, having great practices being stacked together."

Now if he could work on his trash talking.


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