TAMPA — Dirk Koetter learned during his first season as offensive coordinator in Atlanta not to throw at cornerback Brent Grimes. It was a warning issued by quarterback Matt Ryan during practice, and Grimes made the Falcons offense pay for challenging him.
"I know first-hand from going against Brent in my time in Atlanta in practice, I haven't seen Matt Ryan back down from too many corners," Koetter said. "But Matt would tell me every day, 'Oh, we can't throw this route on this side because Grimes is over there.' I was like, 'What? We can go against that guy.' He had about 15 picks (in practice) that first year I was there."
That kind of production has been a staple to Grimes' career, which is why Koetter and former Falcons head coach and Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith wanted to be reunited with him.
Grimes, who turns 33 in June, has defied the clock by earning three of his four Pro Bowl selections the past three seasons with the Dolphins. His 13 interceptions with Miami are the fourth-most in the NFL in that stretch. Grimes played six seasons for the Falcons, 2007-12.
The Bucs, who signed Grimes to a two-year, $13.5 million contract, are hoping he can bring the same playmaking ability to a secondary that was picked apart by opposing quarterbacks to the tune of a 102.5 passer rating and 31 touchdowns.
"What do I do best as a corner? Make plays on the ball," Grimes said Monday during a news conference. "I feel like that is my strong suit. I go get the ball. That's what wins games in the league, making plays on the football when the ball is in the air. I believe that's a strong suit for me."
Grimes is at an age where most players see production fall off, but last season he had four interceptions. His youthful appearance belies the fact that he is entering his 10th season in the league since joining Atlanta in 2006 as an undrafted free agent from Division II Shippensburg (Pa.)
"This guy sitting next to me — the age says one thing, but like (general manager) Jason (Licht) said, he'd have a hard time getting into Applebee's and having a cold one right now without getting carded," Koetter said. "I think that age is a number. … Turn on the film, the film doesn't lie."
Grimes credits his genetics and good cooking by his wife, Miko, for his longevity in the NFL.
"First off, I have to thank my wife for making great food," Grimes said. "Food is the key. I take good care of myself. A lot of it is genetics. A lot of people when you get to certain age, I'm lucky to able to do that. I think God for that and just keep going for as long as I can."
Grimes said prior to meeting Miko, he "couldn't name two vegetables. Man, I could go on and on. She makes a great steak, awesome salmon," he said. "Just everything she makes is good but it's usually healthy. … She put me hip to a lot of … expanding my vegetable horizon, I guess you could say."
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The Bucs tried to sign Grimes as a free agent three years ago when he was coming off an Achilles injury. Grimes said he wasn't sure what made him opt to choose the Dolphins instead, but added that his familiarity with Smith's system was a big plus this time.
"It was a big deal to me because I like the system," Grimes said. "One thing I know about Coach Smith is he's a great coach as far as everybody on the field will know where to be, know what their assignment is, and he pays attention to detail. I feel like in a league like the NFL, it's the best of the best so things that win the game are details and he's very detail-oriented and I feel like that will help me and the team."
More signings: The Bucs continued adding to their defense, signing former Central Florida and Vikings cornerback Josh Robinson to a one-year contract. Robinson, 25, missed most of the 2015 season after tearing a pectoral muscle in summer workouts. In the three previous seasons, he had 21 starts and 155 tackles for the Vikings, with five interceptions. … Safety Bradley McDougald earned the Bucs' highest performance-based bonus given to low-paid players with significant playing time with a bonus check of $222,054.
Times staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report.