“I Feel Great … Even Better Than Before”

June 16th, 2017

Ira Kaufman, the most beloved and esteemed columnist in town, has hung his hat at JoeBucsFan.com world headquarters since July 2016. Tampa Bay’s only Pro Football Hall of Fame voter, Ira’s columns pop here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and his award winning podcasts fire Tuesdays and Thursdays.

BY IRA KAUFMAN

There’s a long list of Buccaneers with much to prove in training camp.

Doug Martin is still trying to rebuild trust with teammates and coaches. Roberto Aguayo is trying to show his rookie struggles are behind him.

Noah Spence is trying to convince Mike Smith that he’s more than just a situational pass rusher. Ali Marpet is trying to make the difficult transition from guard to center — with no experience at the position.

But this to-do list would be glaringly incomplete without mentioning, or perhaps even focusing, on a man who just spent a year mired in NFL purgatory.

Yes, I’m talking about J.R. Sweezy, who arrived in Tampa amid hype and expectations only to experience “the hardest year of my life.”

After leaving Seattle to sign a free-agent contract with the Bucs, Sweezy didn’t play a single snap as Tampa Bay finished just short of an NFC playoff berth. Sweezy’s back mysteriously required surgery and nobody at One Buc Place, including Sweezy, is eager to reveal the details of exactly what went wrong.

At this point, who cares? What’s important is he’s back, ready to provide a maligned offensive line with a nasty presence at right guard.

“I’m excited to put the pads on and start playing some real football again,” Sweezy said after the final day of mandatory minicamp yesterday. “I feel great … even better than before. No limitations. I want to do as much as I can to help make this a championship team.”

Sweezy can start by setting the kind of physical tone up front that helped Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks earn a reputation as a powerful running team. That bruising ground attack was a key component behind two Super Bowl trips, including an NFL championship that capped the 2013 season for Seattle and Sweezy.

Brawler’s Resumé

“Have you seen Sweezy?” asks left tackle Donovan Smith. “Do you see it? He’s mean. He’s a fun guy, quiet, but on the field, you see it.”

You don’t become a state heavyweight wrestling champion in high school by backing down during competition.

J.R. Sweezy

You don’t become an NFL starter as a seventh-round draft pick — a converted defensive lineman — by lacking confidence.

At the age of 28, Sweezy figures he’s just hitting his prime. A big part of the reason Marpet is being shifted to center is an effort to get Sweezy on the field.

He intends to reward Tampa Bay’s faith.

“We have a very good football team,” he said. “As long as we can stay on the same page and play for each other, we’ll be fine. It’s true that talent isn’t enough.  That’s why I feel the cohesion around here has only just begun.

“I’ve got my teammates’ backs, so when we go to play, whatever happens happens. I’ve got their back and they’ve got mine. We’re going to do what it takes to get the ‘W.’ “

Meeting Lover

The way Dirk Koetter looks at it, adding a healthy Sweezy is like landing an additional premium draft pick. And if Sweezy can deliver as advertised, an offense that took a step back in 2016 could set franchise records.

“We were real excited about what J.R. would bring to the group last year,” Koetter said. “Unfortunately, he had to miss the season. J.R., in his 50-something starts in Seattle, was an extremely physical player.”

Sweezy can’t wait to get going and Koetter can’t wait to see Buc running backs reach the second level — a rarity last fall.

“I like our group up front, I think we can be one of the very best lines in the NFL,” Sweezy said. “Ali is doing amazing at center and we’ll all continue to grow until we’re where we want to be.”

Besides Sweezy’s family, nobody is rooting harder for his success than Jason Licht. Tampa Bay’s fourth-year GM wants to see a return on investment after last year’s washout.

Buc fans are hoping Sweezy’s wonky back holds up for 16 games. It’s worth noting that Seattle’s ground game plunged from third to 25th after Sweezy’s departure.

“This is a good group of guys and coach Koetter is a players’ coach,” Sweezy said. “I love the team meetings and the messages he brings. He really gets us going. I know what people are saying about us, but that’s just noise. We need to stay grounded as a football team. As for me, I’m raring to go.”

Sweet music to a Stick Carrier’s ears.

8 Responses to ““I Feel Great … Even Better Than Before””

  1. uckinator Says:

    Coach wanted to get bigger up front….Mission accomplished ! Now just stay healthy..

  2. RayJameisStadium Says:

    Wonky?

    Ira, He is ready to go!

    Go Bucs!!!

  3. Pickgrin Says:

    Nice job Ira. Another well written and informative article. Now you’ve got me pumped up about the possibilities of our run game this year with Sweezy healthy and “raring to go”.

  4. BoJim Says:

    I need a stick dammit.

  5. Dlavid Says:

    Sneezy seems quite confident in himself . His comments and quotes on several JBF articles all aggressive and forward ! Sounds like he is ready to ” get it on ” already . Hope the hype is justified .

  6. Stpetebucsfan Says:

    I already like the interior three of our OL…talented…large and with bad attitudes…Sweezy..Marpet and Pamphile should be excellent when they really get their teamwork down.

    Now if Donavan Smith continues his progression and improves that leaves us looking for a RT. I like Dot as a person I’m not just sure he has enough gas left in the tank….as far as Benenoch I’m not sure of anything.

  7. Lou. Says:

    Is Sweezy — or Marpet for that matter — really so large? They are listed in the 300-305 range (though we take such claims with a grain of salt). Also, Sweezy is known for his speed more than sheer power — one article explained that much like a pass rusher he uses his quickness to convert speed into power.

    Of course, he is known for having an attitude. He is also remembered as deficient in pass blocking, particularly against larger players.

    The Bucs may have beefed up the o-line some, but most of our efforts so far are improvements off a low base. (Smith, meanwhile, brings the average up nicely. 😁).

  8. PistolPete Says:

    The only thing that makes me worry less is the 2 TE sets that we should employ with Brate and Howard.
    Get the feeling that will aid what I feel, are the two biggest weak spots on the OL (both Tackles)…also makes me amped thinking about how the Pat’s used Gronk and Hernandez in those sets in New England….#bada$$

 

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