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Lineman on rise despite his size

Chartric Darby's quickness and instincts have gotten him noticed.


© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 29, 2001

TAMPA -- At 6 feet and 270 pounds, it's hard to imagine that Chartric Darby is worried about being noticed. With his size, he's about as noticeable as Manute Bol in a lime-green suit.

On the Bucs defensive line, though, it's easy for him to get lost. He's almost half a foot shorter than defensive end Simeon Rice. And he comes from a college, South Carolina State, that has less than a third the enrollment of defensive end Marcus Jones' alma mater, North Carolina.

Where this unheralded free agent is easily noticed is sitting on top of the quarterback, a trick he is becoming more and more proficient at performing entering his second season in Tampa Bay.

In three preseason games Darby has 21/2 sacks, more than anyone on the team. Two came in Saturday's 20-3 win over New England, which earned Darby praise from the coaching staff and teammates.

His play might have earned him something else: a spot on the team's 53-man roster, which would be a huge promotion from the team's practice squad, where he was last season.

He is listed behind Pro Bowl defensive tackle Warren Sapp and ahead of rookie draft picks Ellis Wyms and Joe Tafoya, and free agents Terry Jolly and Ron Warner, who've competed against him since training camp.

After the Patriots game, coach Tony Dungy talked about how much he liked Darby, likening him to Seattle defensive tackle John Randle, a former Pro Bowl player who has long been considered one of the fiercest players at his position.

Sapp also is a huge fan.

"He's a disciple of the 99 school, baby," Sapp said, referring to his jersey number. "We watched the dude last year, didn't know who he was. He was a little short dude. We were laughing at him. He's all sleepy-eyed. We were like, "What's he going to do for us?'

"We watched the film the other week and he went all the way down the O-line and whipped them all, tackle to tackle."

In that respect, Darby is a disciple of Sapp. He plays the run well, but lives and breathes for the chance to get to the quarterback. That was the book on him at South Carolina State, where he holds the school record for career sacks at 451/2.

"Sacks are like scoring a touchdown for a receiver," Darby said. "That's what we live for -- sacks. Putting the quarterback down, putting a lot of pressure on him."

For a guy with Darby's build, getting to the quarterback is more about quickness than power and strength. His best chance at getting past an offensive lineman is beating him off the ball.

Darby, 25, has done an assortment of things to develop his quickness, including a homemade drill he came up with in South Carolina, where his family owns a logging and trucking business. It involves working the leg muscles by being strapped to a 200-pound truck tire and dragging it while running. "If you get off the ball first, the offensive lineman has to catch up with you," he said.

His quickness off the line fits in perfectly with the Bucs defensive scheme, which puts more of a premium on speed than bulk. In fact, when Darby came out of college, every NFL team interested in him expressed concerns about his lack of height. ... except the Bucs.

"I really have had to do a lot more everywhere I've gone to draw attention from the coaching staff because I'm a short defensive lineman," Darby said. "(The Bucs) gave me an opportunity and let me play, and that's all I really needed."

Darby is feeling right at home with Tampa Bay, especially after Saturday night. On his first sack, he ran past the quarterback, then doubled back to bring him down. On the second one, he avoided the offensive lineman, who went low toward his knees, then gobbled up the quarterback.

"I must say, that's the best feeling I've ever had on the NFL level," Darby said. "I felt comfortable out there. Everything was flowing."

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