Tyrone McKenzie has not been shy about making it clear that he wants the starting position at middle linebacker. Ever since he got a taste of getting some play time late last season, due to the injury of Quincy Black, he’s been chasing down the chance of getting a starting role. With Barrett Ruud, Adam Hayward, and Quincy Black all entering free agency once the lockout is lifted, it’s possible that the Bucs will not resign all of them and will need someone to step in and fill the shoes of a starter.
It’s also evident that the Buccaneers do not have any long term plans for Barrett Ruud. During the end of the ‘09 season, Ruud wanted a contract extension and only received a franchise tag for one year. After the ’10 season, the Bucs had a chance to resign Barrett Ruud or offer him another franchise tag, and did not do so by the February deadline.
There is a good chance that the new CBA agreements will restrict teams from franchising players due to the timing of the CBA being completed. During the offseason, McKenzie has been preparing nonstop to be a fulltime starter, without the guarantee of the position being giving to him. Since the very first day the Buccaneers brought in McKenzie, he has been practically attached to the hip to linebacker coach, Joe Baker. Due to the lockout, McKenzie has not been allowed to communicate with the coaching staff. However, he has emerged as a leader this offseason and has worked alongside quarterback Josh Freeman in organizing team workouts and reaching out to teammates to participate with them.
The only linebackers attending these workouts were McKenzie and Dekota Watson. Ruud was nowhere to be found, which was unfortunate because McKenzie really wanted to go over some game film with Ruud so that he could get a better understanding of the defense and defensive audibles. So McKenzie called up Ruud at his Nebraska home, and requested if Ruud would go over some game footage with him. Ruud was very polite and welcomed McKenzie to visit him in Nebraska and shortly after McKenzie was on a flight. It was surprising to see that Ruud was so generously helpful to the leading candidate in filling his position. That showed great character in Ruud, and I’m glad to see that he is not bitter towards teammates that may replace him.
McKenzie is definitely on the right path. I think the Buccaneers have, once again, found a diamond in the rough. It’s very likely that McKenzie could get the starting role. If he does, lets all be grateful that the position is being fill by a leader who has been nonstop in his pursuit to perfection.