[an error occurred while processing this directive]
|Email story||Comment||Letter to the editor|
The ex-Eagles star plays little for the Bucs but has adjusted well to a leadership role.
By STEPHEN F. HOLDER
Published November 28, 2007
TAMPA - He has been to four Pro Bowls, yet these days he isn't even in the rotation.
He was among the Eagles' most beloved players, but in Tampa, you barely know he's here.
There was a time when a defense was built mostly around him. Now, he is merely trying to fit into a new one.
Yes, the changes have been radical for Bucs linebacker Jeremiah Trotter - or did you forget he was even in Tampa Bay?
In a league where careers are short and success quickly forgotten, change is guaranteed. What's noteworthy is the grace with which Trotter has adapted to it.
"It's tough," he said. "I can't lie. But I'm a team guy first. Right now, my role is leading and working hard in practice."
That has been pretty much the extent of his action. Trotter has been active for just one game, at Detroit when he played exclusively on special teams.
He signed with the Bucs on Sept.4 after being released unexpectedly by the Eagles. Philadelphia opted to replace the 30-year-old Trotter with 23-year-old second-year player Omar Gaither perhaps out of fear Trotter's past knee troubles would return (he says he is in good shape physically).
It all happened just that quickly. No longer was Trotter's role one of starter, pass rusher, intimidator. In Tampa, where Barrett Ruud has a firm hold on middle linebacker, Trotter has been forced to adjust to being largely a motivator and mentor.
"It's hard for us to really imagine what that's like," linebackers coach Gus Bradley said. "This is a Pro Bowl player we're talking about. We always talk about checking the ego at the door, but he's living it. It's really admirable."
On game day, Trotter has been mostly inactive, so rarely will you see him don his No.50 jersey. But if you want to pinpoint him on the sideline, just look for the guy who is first off the bench to congratulate teammates as they come off the field. It's likely that person will be Trotter, with a towel over his shoulder and intensity on his face.
"I only know one way to play the game, and that's with fire and intensity," said Trotter, who led the Eagles in tackles last season and has surpassed 100 seven of the past eight.
"That's what you see from me during the game. Right now, I'm not playing, but I still have my fire and intensity and I have to do something with all that pent-up energy. And we have a lot of young guys on this team. I'm just trying to motivate them. If I see something wrong, I try to let them know. And in a lot of cases, they'll come up and ask me what I think."
Ruud is among those who have sought out Trotter, seeking advice on tasks the veteran excels at such as shedding blockers. Trotter's willingness to help has made an awkward situation more comfortable.
"I just admire him," Ruud said. "He's so outgoing and so friendly. I was so surprised. I thought from watching him play when I was growing up and from that scowl that he'd be this serious guy. But he's just happy-go-lucky. He has a passion for football. That rubs off on people."
As for his departure from Philadelphia, Trotter harbors no ill feelings.
"It's business. I understand," he said. "About five or six years ago, I might have looked at it different when I was younger. But I'm more mature now. I had a good run there in Philly and I believe I left a legacy there. I know that's something that no one can take away from me."
In Tampa, if and when Trotter gets on the field again, it likely will be for special-teams duty. Playing a style of defense that is the polar opposite of the style to which he is accustomed - and learning the scheme on the fly - has made it difficult for Trotter to contribute. He signed a one-year contract that pays a base salary of $1-million that is guaranteed if he is released because of his status as a vested veteran who made the opening-day roster.
"Our philosophy here has always been to have linebackers who are 230, 235 (pounds) who run around and cover," Bradley said. "He comes in here at 260 and he's a downhill linebacker. It's totally different. Plus, he came in late. It'd be different if he would have had the offseason. ... (Special teams) is probably the quickest way for him to get on the field."
Either way, Trotter has proven his value.
"I can't begin to tell you how big of an influence he has been for us," Bradley said. "We're lucky to have him."
[Last modified November 28, 2007, 01:12:10]