Linebacker Barrett Ruud figures he's had four pretty good years as a starter for the Bucs. But he's approaching 2010 as if it could be his last in a Tampa Bay uniform.
A restricted free agent, Ruud has been tendered a one-year contract worth $3.168 million.
"I approach it as this is a one-year prove-it deal," Ruud said. "That's kind of what it is. You can say whatever you want, but the fact is I've got a one-year tender, basically, so that's definitely how I approach it."
Ruud skipped offseason workouts and Organized Team Activities a year ago hoping to force the Bucs to the bargaining table to negotiate a contract extension.
He still responded with a career-high 205 tackles, the second-most in club history. But this year, Ruud has taken a different approach.
"I definitely have no regrets about last year or the offseason because I was trying to get something done," Ruud said. "If I went back, I'd do it again. But this year, seeing how last year didn't work out as well because obviously I didn't get what I wanted to accomplish, I figured why not do all the OTAs? I think they're helpful.
"Practicing football is pretty much going to be better than most things you're going to be doing otherwise. And I've always been a workout guy. I don't like getting out of shape. I take about three to four weeks off and start right back at it."
Ruud says he hasn't been given an explanation why the Bucs haven't approached him about a long-term deal.
"The explanation is pretty clear throughout the league," Ruud said. "It's a very unlucky time to be a free agent. A free agent is not a free agent right now (because of the status of the collective bargaining agreement). You're sort of stuck. If I had come out one year earlier in the draft, I'd be fine. There's definitely no animosity right now. I know it's a business and I'd like to get something now. But I'm approaching it like a one-year prove it thing."
--LB Barrett Ruud says one of the area's he needs to improve is blitzing the quarterback.
"I have a lot of things I want to work on this year. I wasn't real happy with the way I blitzed last year," Ruud said. "That's one thing you can work on individually, using your hands, trying to be a little more creative. Obviously, we're going to incorporate more of the matchup coverage, but you just can't do it every play."
--The Bucs are hopeful to draft either Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh or Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy. But they already have some promising young defensive linemen.
"Those guys are great players, Suh and McCoy," defensive tackle Roy Miller said. "I've had the opportunity to watch them just watching other teams during the season. I definitely know what they can do and know they can help any team that they become a part of. But at the same time, we've got young guys who feel they have something to prove this year.
"Being around the guys that you go out and grind all the time, that's something a young team needs. We're all young, so being around everybody, you felt, "I kind of know that guy.' But this year, we've all been busting our butts together and there's just a lot of trust being built right now, especially with the young guys. It's exciting, because you're starting to see personalities emerge that you didn't know they had."
--Defensive end Kyle Moore says his "explosion," is back after dropping 16 pounds since the end of the 2009 season.
Moore, a fourth-round pick from Southern California, said he is down to 278 pounds from the 294-pounds he played at in Jim Bates' defensive system. He missed the first seven games with a knee injury.
Coach Raheem Morris relieved Bates of his play-calling duties after 10 games and re-installed the one-gap, Tampa Two system.
Moore said he struggled trying to play with the extra weight.
"That's way heavy," Moore said. "I haven't ever been that heavy in my life. Ever. That was my main focus, to get my explosion and lose a lot of that body fat I picked up. It was bad weight that I picked up after the combine, because I was 272. I came here and gained like 13 pounds for the system that Bates wanted us to run."
"My explosion wasn't there as much as I wanted it to be. As the season went on and I started to get used to it, I started moving a little better with the weight. But it still wasn't me. So this off-season, the focus was I've got to get back down."
According to Moore, the Bucs defensive linemen are much better suited for the penetrating scheme under Morris.
"You can get off the ball, we're not trying to hold up blocks," Moore said. "It's more of a penetrating, get off the rock, create havoc, which helped us a whole lot. We were holding teams to 17 points per game the last six games of the season. You could tell that everybody felt comfortable."
Moore said he will continue to compete at left defensive end and defensive tackle in pass rush situations.
"I want to definitely play the whole season and get in there and produce. That's the main thing, getting some sacks. I had a couple quarterback hits, but I want sacks and just making plays. Obviously, I want to get that starting position."
The Bucs figure to add at least one defensive lineman to the young group that already includes second-year pros like Moore and Roy Miller.
"Everybody is young and we can all jell together," Moore said. "That's how it was in college. I played with those same guys for four years. All of us came in together. We can do that now. We have some young guys who can do some things, especially if we get (Ndamukong) Suh or (Gerald) McCoy."
Regardless of the draft, Moore said he's better prepared to contribute in 2010.
"I played seven games and one game, at New Orleans, I played almost 50 plays. That helps a lot because you feel out the guys you're going to be playing, especially in the NFC South. You're going to be playing these guys twice a year."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Defensive tackles that demand that kind of respect are a rare breed. But they do come around every so often. I'm not putting those two guys (Gerald McCoy and Ndamukong Suh) in that category because they haven't played a down in the NFL, but they are both very talented prospects. When you have a Hall of Fame-type guy at that position, he's a gem. You can't play what the world now knows as the Tampa-2 without a solid 3-technique defensive tackle. Guys like that have to be accounted for on every snap, pass or run. They demand so much attention." -- DL coach Bill Muir on the impact an elite defensive tackle can have.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL: The Bucs signed LB Angelo Crowell to a one-year contract. Crowell spent 2009 on injured reserve with the Bucs.
MEDICAL WATCH: WR Sammie Stroughter still is recovering from surgery to repair a broken foot but should be ready for OTA's in May.