TAMPA — The Tampa Bay Buccnaeers believe they have strengthened their interior defense significantly with the addition of free-agent DT Clinton McDonald, who sports a Super Bowl ring from the Seattle Seahawks.
McDonald is big and strong — and honest.
“I would probably say a C-plus,’’ McDonald said Monday, grading himself after four days of training camp. “As a team, I would say we’re a good B. There are a lot of things we have to work on ... our timing is the most important part.’’
McDonald will fight second-year pro Akeem Spence for playing time this fall next to Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy.
“Akeem is a big, burly guy who is quick, fast and strong,’’ McDonald said. “I think we’re pushing each other. He was the starter last year and they brought me in this year to be the starter. We’ve got to push each other every day. That way, when we get out there on Sunday, it’s a breeze.”
The left ankle injury that forced CB Rashaan Melvin into a walking boot prompted the Bucs to dip into their past for a replacement.
Tampa Bay re-signed CB Anthony Gaitor, a 2011 seventh-round pick out of Florida International who played in 12 games over three seasons with the Bucs.
Gaitor missed last season with a torn ACL and was released by the Bucs in May before signing with the Dolphins.
“When we released Anthony, I told him, ‘It’s a numbers game. We may end up calling you back. Stay ready,’ ” coach Lovie Smith said. “He never really got a true chance to show us what he can do.’’
The Bucs also signed DT Jibreel Black, an unrestricted free agent out of the University of Michigan.
To make room for Gaitor and Black, the Bucs released two rookies, RB Brendan Bigelow and WR Quintin Payton.
Heat is on
Players and fans had to endure a heat index that topped 100 degrees during Monday’s afternoon practice.
“It’s tough out here,” RT Demar Dotson said. “Sundays aren’t this hard. This is the hardest part of football, right here, grinding. You have to push through it and push through it. Sundays? That’s easy. Much easier than this. This is hard, here. This is the type of stuff where you say, ‘How much longer can I play?’ ”
Smith said Bucs staffers are monitoring the weather closely.
“The heat in Tampa is no joke,’’ Smith said. “Hot days like today, when the heat index is up there, we’ll never put the players at risk. We’ll take as many water breaks as we need to.’’
Getting a breather
After four days of practice, including the past two in pads, Bucs players have a day off before camp resumes with a workout Wednesday that is closed to the public.
“You have a day off, but you’re still representing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers,’’ he said. “Some players may come in and want to work out, some may want to get a little extra video work in, rest, it’s their day to do whatever. They’ll make sure they’re back for curfew (tonight) at 11 o’clock.’’
Smith said CB Alterraun Verner was excused from Monday’s practice to rest a tender hamstring. ... During special teams drills, the Bucs alternated between eight different players returning kicks. ... In the open competition for the starting guard spots, rookie Kadeem Edwards (left side) and Patrick Omameh (right) worked with the No. 1 units.