Defensive tackle Amobi Okoye hopes to contribute for Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Published April 20, 2012

TAMPA — Amobi Okoye looks around One Buc Place and, at 24, feels funny calling himself a veteran.

But the fifth-year player and first-round draft pick in 2007 is that on one of the NFL's youngest teams.

Now the defensive tackle hopes he can be recognized as something else.

"I've had a solid career so far, and it's now just about getting over and being that Pro Bowl defensive tackle that everybody wants to be," said Okoye, signed to a one-year deal worth $2 million this month.

"I think I have that opportunity. I know I have that opportunity here in Tampa."

Okoye likely will take a bit of a backseat to Gerald McCoy, the Bucs' 2010 third overall draft choice, and perhaps Brian Price, a second-round pick in 2010. But the playing time is there for the taking in the Bucs' defensive line rotation.

The team has historically played at least three tackles nearly equally. Okoye, though not in the starting lineup last season in Chicago, still registered a significant number of reps. Now the Bucs want to see what he can do with those snaps.

"I started one game in Chicago, and I played about 50 percent of the snaps," Okoye said. "(That was) the second most as far as defensive tackles. So whatever they ask me to do, I'm going to do that plus more. That's the goal."

Okoye, the 10th overall pick by the Texans out of Louisville, has started 59 games over five seasons. He has 15 sacks, including four last season.

TALKING DOWN: For the umpteenth time this spring, GM Mark Dominik on Thursday referenced an openness to trading down in the first round of the draft next week. The Bucs are scheduled to select fifth overall, but Dominik has his eye on additional picks.

The question is if he believes there's a realistic opportunity to make a deal given the apparent lack of interest in teams willing to trade up.

"It depends," Dominik said. "I'm preparing for it with the reality being that it might not happen at all. We as an organization are thinking about what it would take already, putting together charts about what would we do if we move to (for example) 22. We're doing all that to prepare.

"If no one calls, no one calls. We're ready to pick. We do like where we're at, No. 5."

PAYOFF: The Bucs invited a handful of tryout players to participate in this week's voluntary three-day minicamp, which ended Thursday. The effort produced two signings, S Ron Girault and RB Robert Hughes.

Girault most recently played in the United Football League and is well known to coach Greg Schiano after playing for him at Rutgers.

Hughes spent a portion of last season on the Bears' practice squad. At Notre Dame he scored 15 touchdowns.

BACK TO NORMAL: The Bucs revert to milder offseason work next week, in accordance with the stricter guidelines set forth in the collective bargaining agreement reached last year.

Because of their offseason coaching change, the Bucs were allowed to stage this week's minicamp and perform tasks that usually aren't allowed until later in the offseason. Those tasks included offense-against-defense drills and helmeted practices.