Cato June may be playing for a new team this fall, but he’ll play the same role he did in Indianapolis.
“I think it’s a good fit,” the Bucs linebacker said. “Essentially, it’s the same thing. In the over fronts, I’ll be playing strong side; what we called the weak side (in Indianapolis) was the same fit for the most part, so I think I’ll fit in well.”
June left the Colts — who let him explore free agency because of salary cap constraints — with no hard feelings. In fact, he made a point of returning to Indianapolis during the offseason for the team’s Super Bowl ring presentation ceremony.
“It was a business decision,” he said. “You basically say you enjoyed your time there with the Colts, and they’re glad to see me gone and vice versa.”
The Super Bowl ring June earned in Indianapolis may have eased the sting a bit.
June finished last season with a career-high 162 tackles for the Colts, along with a sack and three interceptions, making him a highly-coveted free agent. Tampa Bay snagged him with a three-year, $12 million contract.
Leaving Indy, though, was still tough.
“It’s always hard to leave a good situation, good program, good people. It’s just part of the game you have to move on,” he said.
June is depending on the team’s veterans to help him make the transition, including weak side linebacker Derrick Brooks, someone June describes as one of the best players at that position in the NFL. June has looked to Brooks this offseason for keys when it comes to reactions and movement in Tampa Bay’s version of the Cover 2, also played by Indianapolis.
“You can do things on natural ability, but it makes you that much better when you learn from someone like him,” June said. “You learn different keys, different formations, this and that. When you get this kind of release from the receiver, you play it this type of way. It may seem small, but it puts you in position to make more plays.”
Learning from Brooks is something June’s been doing for years, he said, even while he was playing for the Colts.
“As soon as I got in the league, it’s just one of those guys that when the coach says we’re watching films, we’re going to watch this defense, watch this player, I’m going to watch the person at my position so of course, naturally, I’m going to be watching Derrick Brooks. What does he do?” June said.
Aside from working on new language and terminology with Tampa, he’s also getting used to entirely different coaching styles.
The Colts’ Tony Dungy, June said, is laid-back and mild-mannered, while Jon Gruden is more outspoken, more like June’s collegiate coach, Lloyd Carr of Michigan.
That “night-and-day” difference doesn’t worry June, though.
“I’ve been coached both ways, so it’s not really something that concerns me,” he said. “It will not be something new to me. Both styles have been effective in the past. I welcome it. I’m a high-energy guy myself so that sort of coaching style might benefit me more.”
June’s high energy style is one he’s always employed, he said.
“The way I play, when we grew up playing on the playground, we talked a lot of trash,” he said. “We ran around and everyone wanted to be the one to make the play, every play. That mentality all your life, it’s just natural to keep it going no matter where you’re at.”
June’s speed and defensive ability have already impressed Gruden.
“He can play the outside linebacker position with effortless style,” he said. “He’s got great familiarity with our defense, certainly, but he’s also got great athleticism. His legs are alive. He can run. I know he’ll hit. He’s had a knack for making plays.”