TAMPA — Meet J.R. Sweezy.
Last year's new free agent signing on the Bucs offensive line is this year's new free agent signing on the Bucs offensive line. Funny how that worked out.
There was Sweezy's introductory news conference last March after he signed a five-year, $32.5-million contract.
Sweezy soon underwent season-ending back surgery for a herniated disk. Whether he was already injured when the Bucs signed him or was injured after is a lingering question. What we do know is Sweezy never made it to so much as one practice. His contract has been tweaked into an four-year, $19.25-million deal, with incentives for playing time.
"It was the hardest year of my life, not to play football and to be with a new team," Sweezy said. "It was pretty much the worst-case scenario. It taught me a lot about patience."
The 6-foot-5, 298-pound Sweezy, who came to Tampa Bay after four seasons with Seattle, will have to bring some game this season. Much is expected.
He brings a game face for sure, one so hilariously glowering, so Lurch-like in one particular Seahawks media guide photo that it inspired good, clean fun from Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon, so good and clean that the likable Sweezy still laughs.
Photo via YouTube
Photo via YouTube
"I get a kick out of it," Sweezy said. "Just stupid stuff. Just fun."
More on that later.
"Yeah, he's a pretty big dude," Bucs tight end Cameron Brate said. "He's probably the last person I want to see if I went down a dark alley at night. ... At this stage, we don't too much contact, so it's kind of hard to see how physical guys play, but he definitely looks the part."
More on that later.
I have questions about this offensive line. The Bucs stood pat on the line during free agency and the draft. Bucs coach Dirk Koetter and GM Jason Licht think they have what they need with Sweezy at right guard, between right tackle Demar Dotson and converted center Ali Marpet, left tackle Donovan Smith and left guard Kevin Pamphile. And there's depth behind them. Smith, Marpet and Pamphile continue to develop.
"When people say we didn't address the line, the fact that J.R. was out all last year — we were real excited about what J.R. would bring to the group last year," Koetter said. "J.R., in his 50 some starts in Seattle, an extremely physical player. For our fans who haven't seen him, he's a bigger, stronger version of Joe Hawley. I know our fans like the way Joe played. They're going to like the way J.R. plays as well."
"It can be one of the very best offensive lines in the NFL," Sweezy said. "It's very, very possible. We're working on cohesion, guys stepping in, Ali moving to center. We can be one of the best."
2016 wasn't easy for Sweezy. The silver lining was him spending time with his daughter, Layla, who was born last year. Still ...
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"The night before a game was tough," Sweezy said. "Coming out of the team meeting, it almost felt like I was going to play the next day, then me having to tell myself I'm not. That was hard."
Meet Justin Ross Sweezy. Again. He played at N.C. State as a defensive lineman. He was a seventh-round pick in the 2012 draft. If you call him ornery on the field, well, he's down with that.
"Yeah, sure, that works," Sweezy said. "I guess. I've always played whistle to whistle. My dad taught me that as a kid. It has gotten me a long way. I would have never made it to college. I was an average athlete in high school. I was just continually working hard and grinding."
Who knew he'd be a TV star?
As part of his "Tonight Show Superlatives" segment, Jimmy Fallon poked fun with NBC's Sunday Night Football by featuring mock high school yearbook awards for players featured in the games. The Seahawks appeared often, and Sweezy and his stare became a favorite playful target.
"Most Likely To Enter The Game By Reaching His Arm Up Through The Ground."
"Most Likely To Say 'As You Wish, Master,' Every Time The QB Call A Play."
Sweezy mentioned his favorite.
"I think it was one of the first ones, 'The Sexiest Zombie Alive.'"
Meet J.R. Sweezy. Again. Back not from the dead, just from the back.
"I was brought here for a reason," Sweezy said.
Contact Martin Fennelly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 813-731-8029. Follow >@mjfennelly.