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Versatile Nece broadens expertise
Ryan Nece makes a switch to middle linebacker while Barrett Ruud recovers from a knee bruise.
By RICK STROUD
Published August 6, 2007
[James Borchuck | Times]
Cadillac Williams catches a pass past Ryan Nece during practice.
LAKE BUENA VISTA - At the start of training camp, the Bucs approached Ryan Nece about moving to middle linebacker.
It's just a few steps away from his strongside linebacker position, where he has started 35 games since 2003.
But it's a giant leap in terms of the responsibility for making all the calls in the center of the defense.
"I'm blessed and fortunate enough to play those positions, and the team is giving me an opportunity to play (middle linebacker), which was a surprise, no doubt," Nece said. "And it's a challenge to learn a position on the fly like this. It's not just any position. You've got to know all the calls."
The Bucs have called on the six-year player the past two days to play in front of starting middle linebacker Barrett Ruud, who has a knee bruise. The injury is not considered serious, but having a versatile veteran like Nece has been valuable.
Nece, 28, switched positions with Quincy Black, a third-round pick from New Mexico.
"Those guys kind of switched roles," said linebackers coach Gus Bradley. "We're trying to get (Nece) as many reps as we can. With Barrett not being able to practice, it's benefited Ryan and Antoine Cash. He's pretty versatile, Ryan is. He could, at the drop of a hat, play any one of the three positions and we'd be in good shape."
The Bucs are deep at linebacker with the addition of Colts free agent Cato June, who is starting in Nece's former strong side spot. But there isn't much experience behind Ruud, who became the starter with the retirement of Shelton Quarles, who now is a Bucs advance scout.
"I've been fortunate enough to have Shelton (Quarles) out here, which has been a great support," Nece said. "And Barrett is my roommate and those guys have been fortunate enough to help me out. It's helping making the transition a little easier.
"Hopefully it's rewarded in the end but it's just something I realize that if they respect me enough to change me around, I should be able to understand and take pride in my ability to do that."
Ruud called his injury the result of "a funny plant" and hoped to return to practice in a day or two. The Bucs host New England in the preseason opener Friday at Raymond James Stadium.
PADS OFF: For the first time in a week, the Bucs practiced twice Sunday without pads.
Coach Jon Gruden continued to keep the workload light on many veterans, including receiver Joey Galloway, who did not practice. Among those skipping the afternoon workout: cornerback Ronde Barber, defensive end Greg Spires, running back Michael Pittman, fullback Mike Alstott and defensive tackle Chris Hovan.
"We've had seven straight days of pads and we felt that was the right thing to do," Gruden said. "We'll be in pads again tomorrow. We still got a lot of work done, covered a lot of situations, but we'll be in pads again tomorrow."
SIMMS TAKES EXTRA WORK: Quarterback Chris Simms threw passes under the instruction of quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett for about 30 minutes after the morning practice.
Gruden hinted that Simms might see more action in the afternoon. But he was limited to individual passing drills during both practices.
Despite not participating in 11-on-11 passing plays in nearly a week, Gruden said he expects Simms to play Friday.
"He needs to play, obviously," Gruden said. "But there's a lot of things that go into that. Do you get the ball and can you do something with it and look at some guys? We'd like to do that. Physically, he looked good today from what I saw and hopefully he can work himself back into a ready position this week."