Buccaneers Coverage

 
Buccaneers Coverage

Bucs' Underwood Believes He's Still An Underdog

By: Dory LeBlanc

 

One year later, Tiquan Underwood finds himself in the same situation he was in when he arrived in Tampa last May; able to control only what he can. 

In May 2012, Underwood signed with the Bucs and was productive in training camp all the way through pre-season. With the departure of Dezmon Briscoe on the first day of training camp and the health of Arrelious Benn’s knee a question mark, it was almost a foregone conclusion that head coach Greg Schiano’s former Rutgers standout reciever would have a place on the roster. 

During final roster cuts on August 31, 2012, the Bucs trimmed theirs from 75 to 53. Underwood was one of the 22 players let go. 

That’s how it works in the NFL; there are no guarantees. 

In late September, the New Jersey native was given another chance when the team released Preston Parker, a chance that would make him fight harder to control only what he could, and to accept that his fate was in other people’s hands. 

“That’s it,” Underwood said. “I can control my play and not making mistakes on the field and that’s it. The coaches are going to make their decisions and you just have to live with it as a player.” 

Today, Underwood believes nothing has changed as far as his place on the team, despite catching 28 passes for 425 yards and scoring his first two NFL touchdowns in the 14 games he played last season.   

One of the things that has changed is his familiarity with the offense and the chemistry he has with quarterback Josh Freeman. 

“After being in this system for a year,” Underwood said, “You get more comfortable as a player and obviously studying the playbook during the off-season helps you, and getting experience during the season helps. 

“Obviously it was Josh’s (Freeman) first year in the system as well so everybody getting that experience together, knowing each other in and out - it’s paying off during these practices.” 

With 12 wideouts currently on the Bucs’ squad and two, Pro-Bowler Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, sure locks, that leaves three spots open for the rest of the wide receivers to prove to Schiano and offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan they belong in pewter and red. 

On paper, Underwood’s biggest competition to play in the slot is Kevin Ogletree, a fifth year veteran who played his first four seasons with Dallas and was signed by the Bucs in March.

Chris Owusu is also likely in the mix as the fourth or fifth wide receiver after signing with Tampa Bay last September and played five games for the Bucs, recording one catch for 24 yards. 

Underwood takes nothing for granted and fighting for a roster spot is nothing new to him. 

Drafted by Jacksonville in 2009 and cut after playing 10 games in 2010, Underwood was picked up by New England in 2011 and infamously released the night before the Patriots’ Super Bowl XLVI appearance. He was re-signed to New England two days after the Super Bowl and released again three months later. 

“For me, it’s been a dogfight since I got in the league,” Underwood said. “It’s going to be like that every year, I understand it. Seventh round draft pick, late round guy, so that’s just the way it is. 

“But me? I’m a fighter, so I’m going to continue to compete. Competition brings out the best in players. So, let the best man win.” 

 

 

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