Florida WR has early talk with Bucs

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, like the rest of the NFL, are at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., this week. One of the Bucs' primary team needs is wide receiver and they've talked to at least one wide receiver from the University of Florida, who also happens to a Tampa native.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have already set about researching one of their primary team needs by meeting with University of Florida wide receiver Andre Caldwell at the Senior Bowl.

The six-foot, 203-pound receiver arrived in town on Sunday and found himself face to face with a Bucs scout before Monday morning's official weigh-in at the Mobile Convention Center.

"It went well," Caldwell said of the conversation. "They got a little background on my health and whether I had been in trouble."

Wide receiver is considered a need for the Bucs, whose primary receivers in 2007 were 35-year-old Joey Galloway and 31-year-old Ike Hilliard. Their backups, Michael Clayton and Maurice Stovall, caught a combined 32 passes.

Hilliard, like Caldwell, is a Gator.

Caldwell is a projected second-round pick, and Scout.com personnel analyst Tom Marino considers him a Top 12 receiver.

Despite a medial collateral ligament sprain in his right knee and a hamstring injury that forced him to miss two games and part of a third, Caldwell still finished with 56 receptions for 761 yards and seven touchdowns in 2007. That season allowed Caldwell to set a new school record for career receptions (181).

Caldwell helped the Gators to the BCS national title in the 2006 season, catching only two passes for six yards in that game, but scoring once.

He also missed most of the 2005 season after suffering a broken leg on a kickoff return against Tennessee.

That's one of the reasons why Caldwell is answering questions about his health.

"I think they want to see that I'm healthy," Caldwell said. "I've been through some injuries. They want to see what my speed looks like, my playmaking ability and catching the football."

When healthy, Caldwell has 4.41 speed, which would fit right into the Bucs' need for more receivers that can stretch the defense, along with finding an eventual successor to Galloway.

Caldwell saw the value in being in Mobile this week, as other players, including Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm, dropped out of the game. This is his first real opportunity to show NFL scouts his talent and that his injuries are behind him.

And the Senior Bowl has a stable of wide receivers to showcase. Caldwell will play for the South, coached by San Francisco 49ers head coach Mike Nolan and his staff. Caldwell will play alongside a trio of potential first-day selections in LSU's Early Doucet, Louisville's Harry Douglas and Texas' Limas Sweed, who is also coming off an injury.

Caldwell believes the top-flight competition will push him during practice, which is when the prying eyes of NFL coaches and scouts will be watching.

"I'm just coming out there to compare myself to some of the elite receivers in this game," Caldwell said. "I feel like I'm one of the top guys and I want to see what they're doing and compare myself to them."

Along with the Bucs, Caldwell had already spoken to the Dolphins and the Raiders before his weigh-in.

Caldwell had to strip down to his boxers for the weigh-in as a roomful of NFL and CFL scouts watched.

Welcome to the NFL, Andre.

"That was the first real experience of what we're going to go through the next couple of months," Caldwell said. "You're out of college football and you feel like you're in the NFL."

Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. An award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers Association, he appears frequently on Scot Brantley Show from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1470-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.

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