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Rewriting his script
Cato June's natural role is filled. So he will play multiple roles, some of which remain a secret.
By STEPHEN F. HOLDER
Published August 17, 2007
Cato June takes pride in being able to play divergent roles.
LAKE BUENA VISTA - With the Bucs finally breaking camp Thursday, players can return to the comforts of their own homes.
For linebacker Cato June, that means a chance to curl up on the couch with a good movie. He owns a wide-ranging collection of "easily" 400 films. But if forced to choose, June says nothing beats a good Eddie Murphy flick.
"I like all that stuff: Harlem Nights, The Nutty Professor, 48 Hours, Beverly Hills Cop," June said. "All those, I watch frequently."
The comedic actor is known for his ability to effortlessly portray multiple characters, often in the same film i.e. The Klumps. And like Murphy, June takes pride in being able to play divergent roles.
His skills might be best suited for weakside linebacker, but the presence of the esteemed Derrick Brooks has forced June to the strongside in his first season with the Bucs. But is June being properly cast in the Tampa Bay defense?
The strongside linebacker leaves the field for a fifth defensive back in the nickel package the Bucs use on passing downs. Depending on game situations, it sometimes is used extensively.
If you think the sideline sounds like no place for one of the team's most celebrated offseason acquisitions, you're right.
"We're going to look at everything," coach Jon Gruden said. "We've only played our first preseason game. We're going to have plenty for Cato to do."
The Bucs just aren't saying what that is. The feeling is they have big plans for June, a 2005 Pro Bowl selection with the Colts who is entering his fifth season. That might include using him in the nickel package rather than middle linebacker Barrett Ruud. Or the plans could include something more complicated and less predictable.
Like the 34-year-old Brooks in his prime, the 6-foot June is cat quick at a slight 227 pounds and excels in pass coverage.
"I knew what I was coming into," June said.
"I knew Brooks was the (weakside) linebacker and has been for years. And I knew that my role would be different than it was in Indy. Everything will work itself out."
Coaches continue to emphasize that final part. Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, for example, relished the fact that June's addition will enable the Bucs to forgo their nickel package in certain cases because of his ability to cover. A former safety at Michigan, the 27-year-old June adds a wrinkle to the base defense.
"There are going to be teams that come out against us in a one-back set ... and try to run the ball," linebackers coach Gus Bradley said. "I'm not saying we haven't had success in our nickel package stopping the run. But it does give us another dimension to be able to keep our base defense out there in those situations.
"Then you'll have teams who will try to go with a quick huddle, and maybe you don't have a chance to get your nickel defense out there. We have to be able to adjust with our base. So we've seen that, and we said, 'You know what? It's another way to get some of our best players on the field.' "
And just maybe, where they play doesn't matter so much.
"He can play anywhere on the football field," Gruden said. "He's just a natural."