Phillip Buchanon, wide receiver?
That's probably reaching at this point, but Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden said after Thursday's slippery practice that the cornerback could be used in an offensive role.
"You're going to see more of Buchanon on offense," Gruden said. "He's going to play some offense for us. We'll get him involved in the kicking game. There will be some things that we get to here later in camp."
Buchanon, who entered the NFL as a first-round pick of the Oakland Raiders in 2002, is undeniably talented. He was a top return man at the University of Miami and in his first year in Oakland. In 2002 he returned 15 punts for an 11.9-yard average and a touchdown. In 2003 that average went up to 13.6 and he scored twice.
But injuries led to less use as a punt returner, along with less production. He returned 14 punts for Houston and Tampa Bay last season, averaging 6.8 yards a return.
He does have seven career touchdown returns, but none since Sept. 26, 2004 against, oddly enough, Tampa Bay.
Defensively Buchanon is the third cornerback behind Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly. Kelly said Wednesday that Buchanon would see a lot of action there this season, since the Bucs use a nickel package "about 60 percent of the time."
"He's a good player. I don't know – grasp is probably not a good enough word," Gruden said about Buchanon seizing the opportunity to be the No. 3 cornerback. "He's choking it. He's grabbing firm control of his performances every day, and I think the exciting thing is that he and [Ronde] Barber and [Brian] Kelly working together, I think the three of them know they've got a chance to be a pretty darn good unit."
Along with his possible return duties — he's a candidate at punt returner — and the crowded field already at wide receiver, it would seem as if Buchanon wouldn't have a lot of time to play on offense.
"I don't want to get into all of that right now," Gruden said. "We're going to ask him to do a lot of things. We're going to ask him to do some things that might help us out in some situations."
Gruden seemed to take issue with several dropped passes on Thursday, certainly due in part to the wet conditions. Two of those drops were by Michael Clayton.
"We'll hand the ball off. That's what we'll do," Gruden said, tongue in cheek. "That's what I tell the receivers. ‘We'll just hand it off. All you guys want all these catches and all these yards and stats. We'll hand the ball off if we can't catch it any better than we did today.' It is tough. It is very, very tough. The ball is slick. And I think this caught them by surprise a little bit. It came out of nowhere, and it picked up its pace and it continued to pound. But we've got to catch the ball a lot better, or we'll run the ball and punt a lot."
Meanwhile, left tackle Luke Petitgout missed his third straight morning workout on Thursday, sparking concern that there's something more to his absence than simply the "soreness" Gruden described on Wednesday. Gruden said the wet weather was a factor, but that he wasn't worried.
"Yeah, but fortunately we got a lot of work done prior to him getting here," Gruden said. "He has missed three practices, and I expect to see Luke tomorrow. I think he's OK. It would have been a good day to see him out here practicing, but given the weather the way it was, we felt giving him the morning off and being ready to roll into the weekend was the right thing to do."
Petitgout is coming off a broken leg, but also has a history of back concerns. Gruden said Wednesday that the Buccaneers had researched how the Giants used Petitgout in previous training camps and were using that as a template to monitor his work.
Defensive end Gaines Adams also missed his second straight day of workouts with a strained triceps muscle.
Gruden was optimistic about Adams' return on Friday.
"He'll be back tomorrow in some fashion," Gruden said. "I don't know if he'll be full-go every period, but we'll see how he feels tomorrow. We're not overly concerned that he'll be out a long period of time, and we'll give him a shot tomorrow."
Meanwhile, quarterback Chris Simms apparently gave himself the green light to throw the ball on Thursday, as he threw a few early passes of varying lengths, all of which were complete.
But he didn't see much work after that, from a passing standpoint.
"I have no comment on him other than we tried to give him a few reps early and he didn't take any more after that," Gruden said. "A lot of that has to do with the performance of [Luke] McCown and [Bruce] Gradkowski as much as it does his body right now. But he needs to get well in a hurry, and I think the elbow is getting better. But it's frustrating, I know, for him."
Want to read the entire Jon Gruden transcript from Thursday's press conference? Click here.
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association and has won national awards for his Buccaneers coverage from the PFWA, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press Sports Editors.