Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bucs feeling good about rookie Stroughter
TAMPA - It's been a tough couple of weeks for supporters of the Bucs. Between Tanard Jackson's suspension, the arrest of Aqib Talib and a prolonged quarterback soap opera, Buc fans have been looking for a reason to believe. Meet wide receiver Sammie Stroughter, also known as Dr. Feelgood. "He's a steal, who are we kidding?" Bucs coach Raheem Morris said of the seventh-round pick out of Oregon State. The Bucs had the undersized Stroughter targeted in the draft, despite his pedestrian 4.53 clocking at the combine."The reason we drafted him is because we thought he could fit in the slot and that's what he has shown he can do," new offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski said. "We're excited about this kid. He has made all the plays and he's a football player - period." In limited action through three preseason games, the 5-foot-10, 189-pound Stroughter has five receptions for 65 yards, including a 9-yard touchdown catch. He is also averaging 30.4 yards in seven kickoff returns, dashing 75 yards at Jacksonville to set up another score. "He's not afraid over the middle and he's very easy to teach," receivers coach Richard Mann said. "Not everyone can play inside, but this kid can. He's got good hands, he's smart and he's always got a smile on his face." That wasn't always the case for the 233rd player chosen in the 2009 draft. Stroughter overcame a lacerated kidney and a severe bout of depression at Oregon State, raising questions for pro scouts. The Bucs remained intrigued with Stroughter's production and versatility. He has rewarded that faith through training camp and the preseason, even adding a pair of tackles heading into Friday night's final tuneup against the Texans. "I like playing inside, it has given me more room to run," he said. "It's on you, mano a mano, and you have to get the job done. I've always been a tough receiver who can take hits. I can give 'em, also. I have one of those carpe diem attitudes ... just seize the moment." Unlike most seventh-round picks, Stroughter isn't dreading a visit by the Turk. Everyone on the club knows No. 18 has made the team with a series of dynamic performances. "We saw it all through camp," cornerback Ronde Barber said. "Sammie's a gamer and he's got the intangibles that good football players have." At times this summer, Tampa Bay's final draft pick has been rooming with the franchise's first-round choice, quarterback Josh Freeman. In between the pizza and the video games, the two young Bucs talked about forming an exciting downfield combination. "Stroughter is no surprise to me," Freeman said. "This guy is a tremendous player. We sit up and talk about different facets of the game and one thing I know about Sammie is that he's driven to be great." Stroughter's skills as a slot receiver could lead to a pivotal role this fall. The Bucs need a replacement for the departed Ike Hilliard, a clutch target with the savvy to find open seams over the middle, sure hands and the nerves to absorb punishment. "Sammie Stroughter fits into the mold of Raheem Morris," Tampa Bay's rookie coach said. "He is in the mold of being aggressive, the mold of being mentally tough and the mold of no excuses." While fourth-year pro Maurice Stovall has come on in recent weeks, Stroughter is the young Bucs receiver who keeps impressing coaches and teammates alike with his unbridled energy. "As long as I keep my foot on the pedal and go full throttle, that's all I can ask for," Stroughter said. "The only thing I know for sure is I'll never be satisfied."
Reporter Ira Kaufman can be reached at (813) 259-7833.