Rookie mini-camp is the first real taste of the NFL for young players coming into the league. It doesn’t put them on the field with the veterans, but it is their first steps at getting to know their coaches and what the are looking for come practices and on Sundays.
Of course, quarterback Jameis Winston highlighted the weekend and he shared his excitement for finally getting in some football.
“This is a game that we love. This is our passion,” Winston said. “I’m so excited to be a Buc; I’m so excited to be out here and start playing football again. I just get anxious. Now I’m ready to play games.”
There are still months left before they get some games in but that hasn’t stopped the 21-year-old rookie signal caller from trying to build a chemistry with some potential new teammates.
“Those guys are playing their tails off. It’s just exciting to play football. Those guys are out here for the same reason that I’m out here, and that’s to play football. (To) play the game that we love is basically a dream come true to everyone out here. It’s exciting. It’s day one (and) we have to keep the tempo going, keep getting better, but it was exciting.”
The chemistry that quarterbacks try to work on is with their wide receivers and it’s no different with Winston. Sure it’s just a few hours that they get on the field, but a bond has already started with fifth-round selection Kenny Bell.
“Jameis and I want to say good friends,” Bell said. “It feels like we have been playing together for a while. He’s a good dude. Obviously chemistry is something that takes a while to build, but when you have a quarterback with that much talent it makes your job a lot easier.
“When you have a quarterback with that much talent, he puts the ball on you. He threw another one today that I just dropped. He is making life easy to say the least.”
Wide receiver Kaelin Clay, drafted in the sixth-round, also talked about Winston. And Clay appears to already understand how strong the Florida State product throws the football.
“He threw one to me today and it ripped my glove. He has some power behind that arm,” Clay said following Saturday’s practice.
“We came out here today and our focus was to get better from yesterday. Yesterday, the end of practice wasn’t so good, so that was our focus – just to get better at practice today overall and I feel like today we did that.
Clay is expected to have a big role in the return game for the Buccaneers. But even with hearing it’s his job to lose, Clay remains humbled with the opportunity.
“It says a lot, that they have a lot of confidence in me, but nothing is given,” said Clay. “I still have to work for it. My approach to that is I’m going to come out here and work every day. I want to learn from the veterans, see what they do. Also, I want them to tell me what I do wrong, so I can contribute to the team and just help the team become a playoff contender and hopefully we are in California at the end of the season.”
It’s no different for the rookies on the defensive side of the ball. Fourth-round draft pick Kwon Alexander hopes to make an impact on the team and has a great coach to help get him there in linebackers coach Hardy Nickerson.
“He’s a great coach,” Alexander said. “These past couple days, I really enjoyed it. He’s coaching me up well; he’s coaching everyone up well. Everybody likes him, so we’re all just having fun.”
Alexander already feels confident in his ability to grasp the Buccaneers defense.
“I’ve got to have confidence to play ball. If you don’t have confidence, you aren’t going to do well. So I just come in and just have a lot of confidence and just have fun and do my job.”
While the rookies got acquainted with one another over the weekend, not all will continue on to the next part of offseason workouts.
The next set of workouts for the team, both rookies and veterans, doesn’t come until OTA workouts on May 28. It’ll be then when things begin to get interesting heading into the heat of the summer workouts for the regular season.