LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (July 28, 2006) -- First-round draft pick Davin Joseph is cautiously optimistic about the prospect of earning a starting job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season.
The Bucs are counting on the rookie offensive lineman from Oklahoma to challenge for playing time at right guard, and Joseph thinks getting into training camp on time can only help his chances.
"It puts you on the same level as everybody else competition-wise," Joseph said between practices at Disney's Wide World of Sports.
"But it still takes a lot of hard work. I might have what it takes talent-wise. But hard work-wise, I still have to prove myself."
Joseph signed a five-year contract July 27 about three hours after the rest of the Bucs reported to camp. He arrived at the team hotel in time to catch the end of a meeting, then spent extra time with offensive line coach Bill Muir to prepare for his first workout.
"Everything went well," he said. "I was on time in my mind. I didn't miss anything."
Fourth-year pro Sean Mahan started every game at right guard last season, but the long-range plan is for Joseph to move into that spot with Mahan eventually shifting to center. Third-year guard Jeb Terry also is vying for the job.
Bucs coach Jon Gruden said Joseph, who played guard and tackle in college, has the versatility to help at least three different positions if needed.
"We've got a long way to go with all of our players. It's the first day of camp," Gruden said. "But he's a quick study. He's a very athletic guy. He's got some size and some unique traits we need around here."
Joseph stressed to his agent, Ben Dogra, the importance of reaching a contract agreement before the start of practice and is focused now on learning the offense and doing whatever he can to earn playing time.
"I'm just trying to compete, learn and be able to contribute by the time Game 1 comes around," Joseph said, although winning a starting job would be preferable.
"I didn't come here to sit around. That's my goal to start. But I'm taking realistic steps. I'm not trying to overwhelm myself right now. It'll get there when it gets there. Hopefully, it gets there in a hurry."
Joseph started 26 games at right guard as a sophomore and junior at Oklahoma. He played left tackle and left guard as a senior and doesn't anticipate having a problem changing positions again.
"There's no extra pressure for me. I know what Coach Gruden wants. I know what (general manager) Bruce Allen wants. I know what Coach Muir wants. For me, my expectations and their expectations are on the same page," he said.
"I'm cherishing my opportunity. ... But at the same time, I'm taking a realistic approach that if I don't work hard, if I don't stay in my books, if I don't stay in shape, it'll be taken away overnight."