Barrett Ruud isn’t looking over his shoulder at Jeremiah Trotter. Trotter, meanwhile, feels like he’s cramming for an exam.
Trotter, the former Eagles middle linebacker, made his first appearance in the Tampa Bay locker room on Wednesday eager to dive into the Cover 2 scheme and put what happened in Philadelphia behind him.
“You know what, that chapter of my life is closed,” Trotter said. “I’m moving on, moving forward with my new team, the Bucs, and my new teammates.”
The Eagles released Trotter during preseason after they determined that Omar Gaither was a better option at middle linebacker. Trotter worked out with the Buccaneers on Aug. 21 and signed on Tuesday.
There were whispers that the 6-foot-1, 262-pound 10-year veteran had lost a step in Philadelphia, leading to his release. He laughed when a reporter brought it up.
“You don’t (worry about it),” Trotter said. “You can’t worry about it. You going to always have critics. You can’t worry about what people say or think. You just have to keep working hard and when you’re in between those white lines hit somebody in the mouth.”
Quarterback Jeff Garcia played with Trotter last year in Philadelphia. He expected Trotter to continue to be a player to be reckoned with.
“From what I saw last year, he hasn’t lost a step,” Garcia said. “He still fills in the hole, he still puts his head in the hole he still does what he has to do to be an impact player.”
It’s unclear what Trotter’s role will be in Tampa Bay’s defense. He’s a middle linebacker by trade, and Ruud, the third-year pro from Nebraska, is the starter. The four-time Pro Bowl linebacker said he’s spent the past two days studying the Bucs’ defensive playbook. He didn’t get his first practice with the team until Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s awful hard to walk in and in less than a week know the system,” Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said. “He will be able to pick it up eventually because he knows the game.”
There’s even a chance he may not be ready to play on Sunday in Seattle.
“I don’t know much (about how they’ll use me),” Trotter said. “I know about as much as you.”
Trotter spent seven of his nine NFL seasons in Philadelphia, embodying the working-class image of coordinator Jim Johnson’s defense. He had to work his way back into a starting role in 2004 when he returned to Philadelphia, and had three more years left on a five-year contract when the Eagles released him.
Trotter admitted his release hurt.
“If I said it didn’t hurt I’d be lying,” Trotter said. “But that’s the nature of the business. You have to keep moving. You can’t worry about the past.”
Trotter admitted he didn’t know much about Ruud. Trotter’s experience with the Tampa defense is Pro Bowl appearances with Derrick Brooks.
Ruud knows Trotter from watching Eagles game film the past two years. He considers him a player to emulate.
“He’s one of the premier take-on blockers, point of attack guys,” Ruud said. “That’s something you’re always work on, to perfect that. He’s one of the better ones doing that.”
Ruud didn’t appear too concerned about his job on Wednesday. Since taking over for Shelton Quarles this offseason, he’s been the unquestioned starter. He looks at Trotter’s presence in Tampa Bay as a great signing that bolsters the depth of the linebackers, plus gives him another great mentor, along with Brooks and Cato June.
“I don’t look over my shoulder,” Ruud said. “You have to produce. If you don’t you won’t play long.”
Want to read Jeremiah Trotter’s entire introductory press conference in Tampa Bay? Click here to link to it via our “Press Pass” feature.
Eager for more analysis on Trotter? Catch my "Observation Deck" analysis on the signing, with comments from Scout.com's personnel guru Tom Marino.
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association and has won national awards for his Buccaneers coverage from the PFWA, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press Sports Editors. He is also a contributor to the Scot Brantley Show from 4-7 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1490-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.