June set to meet his old team

Cato June admits it will be "comfortable" being in Indianapolis this weekend among his former teammates. But how much will his knowledge of the Colts help his new team, the Buccaneers, this weekend? Find out in this premium article.

Everyone is focused on the relationship between Indianapolis head coach Tony Dungy and his former team, Tampa Bay. And rightly so.

But his is not the only reunion this weekend.

Bucs linebacker Cato June is going home, too.

June, in his fifth season, has his own emotions to deal with. The former Colt left the team in the offseason for a 3-year, $12 million deal with Tampa Bay and has fit in nicely with a linebacking corps that includes veteran Derrick Brooks and first-year starter Barrett Ruud.

June said earlier in training camp that the Colts' salary cap constraints prevented them from re-signing him. The 6-foot, 227-pound backer felt Tampa was a perfect situation.

"It has been a great situation for me, great defense [and] great defenders around me," June said. "I just fit in well."

June quickly adapted to the strong side linebacker position — the same position he played in Indianapolis — and has 31 tackles and an interception in four games.

Obviously, the fact that both the Colts and the Buccaneers run the Cover 2 defense sped up June's progress with the Bucs. But he found little difference in the way each team plays the Cover 2.

"You want to get a lot of guys to the football," June said. "We're a smaller defense. But it's about intensity, getting guys to the football, hitting and tackling, and that's the same mentality here as it was there. We just have guys here that have done it for a long time and at a high level."

Dungy admitted on Wednesday that the Colts miss their former linebacker, but appeared happy June ended up in a defense that allows him to show off his best attributes.

"He's great in running lanes," Dungy said. "He has tremendous instincts and ball skills. He has a nose for the football. He's very smart and competitive. And this system allows him to do those things. He made a ton of big plays for us. He's making big plays for them. He's an emotional leader as well and it's no surprise to me that he's helping them."

The Colts have been on a reunion tour of sorts the past five weeks, as it seems each opponent features a free-agent defection from the offseason.

Cornerback Jason David is in New Orleans. Cornerback Nick Harper is in Tennessee. Guard Steve McKinney is in Houston. Wide receiver Brandon Stokley is in Denver.

And now there's June.

"It's kind of an unusual trend," Colts head coach Peyton Manning said. "Cato was a great player and a great teammate for us, great to have in the locker room. I was disappointed to see him leave."

June went back to Indianapolis in the offseason to pick up his Super Bowl ring, handed out during a ceremony with his former teammates. He expects to do a lot of catching up before Sunday's game.

"I'll be a little comfortable out there," June said. "There are familiar faces. I know some of their tendencies. I know how good they are and that can help (us) a little bit."

But how much can June really help? Yes, June used to play for the Colts. And, yes, Manning uses those crazy hand signals and line calls to throw defenses off the scent of big plays.

But June may not be as knowledgeable as you might think, even after playing against Manning for five years in practice.

"Yeah, I know every one of them," June said, obviously in jest. "I have a little stat sheet that I'm handing out to the rest of the DBs. We're going to be all over it."

The problem, June said, is it's not just hand signals. It's eye contact. It's team chemistry. It's an intricate game plan crafted by offensive coordinator Tom Moore. It's Moore knowing exactly what Manning would audible to in a certain situation, and vice versa.

You can't get caught up in the signals, June said.

"People have been trying to figure out Manning and that Colts offense for years," June said.

And Manning said the Colts take former teammates like June into account during weeks like this.

"You change some things, you'll come up with some different signals and audibles to keep things fresh and new," Manning said.

What June might be able to help the Buccaneers out with this week is tendencies, and several players have already tried to pick June's brain. But most of them are offensive players looking for insight into the Colts defense.

"I think Cato is an excellent guy to talk to about their defensive schemes and what their approach is," Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia said.


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. He is also a contributor to the Scot Brantley Show from 4-7 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1490-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.


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