Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bucs rookie Ahmad Black unfazed by criticism
TAMPA - There are many good things to say about Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie safety Ahmad Black. It just seems those moments rarely happen. Black has been told he is too short (5-foot-9) to play football. He has been criticized for being too small (184 pounds). Another knock against Black is he's too slow. "What are they going to say next? I don't talk good enough?" Black said.Black's physical measurements may not speak loudly for him, but he hopes his play will say it all during the Bucs' training camp. "They have to find something negative to say about me, so I guess that's what they pick," Black said. "Again, I just have to go out and try to prove them wrong." Black, a former Lakeland High and Florida standout, has a lot to prove. As a senior, Black led the Gators and all Southeastern Conference defensive backs with 108 tackles. He picked off five passes, deflected five others and forced three fumbles, capping his college career with an 80-yard interception return against Penn State in the Outback Bowl. Black, the 2011 Outback Bowl MVP, finished his career with 13 interceptions, tied for fourth in school history. He also had 244 total tackles, including 14 for loss. However, Black ran a 4.70-second 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine, which is what most teams and draft experts focused on. His unimpressive time caused him to fall into the fifth round of the draft, where Tampa Bay selected him 151st overall. "At the end of the day, I ran what I ran," Black said. "I never was a 40 guy. It's not like I ran a 4.2 last year and I was surprised. The only thing that really got to me was everybody was saying I had a bad combine. "I was one of the highest-rated safeties. I benched 225 pounds 18 times. My vertical jump was 351/2 inches. My broad jump was 9 feet, 11 inches. It wasn't like I was just some scrub out there who didn't do anything right. It was crazy. Once again, I did everything else good, but they've got to find something negative." While some teams found Black's 40-yard dash a negative, Bucs coach Raheem Morris believed it was a positive. "I was the happiest guy in the world when he ran a bad time at the combine because I knew I had a chance to get him a little bit later," Morris said. "He's come in here and he's got that Cody Grimm-type of attitude. He's just a playmaker who makes plays." Black has been making plays since training camp began. While he has played well at safety, he is getting noticed on special teams. With Maurice Stovall and Niko Koutouvides no longer on the team, Black is expected to help fill their roles on special teams. "Everybody gets caught up in speed. For me, it's what a guy does in the field," special teams coordinator Dwayne Stukes said. "If I have a guy who runs a 4.8, but he's always making plays, how can you knock that? That's what his biggest knock is. He went to the combine, ran a slow time, but when I watched the Florida film, he was always around the ball. "Now that he comes here, he knows that he has three safeties in front of him, whether it's Cody Grimm, Sean Jones and if (Tanard Jackson) comes back or it's (Corey) Lynch, he has an uphill battle. The quickest way he can get on the field is by playing special teams." There are many good things people can say about Black. He hopes to finally start hearing them. "Coach (Morris) picked me for a reason," Black said. "He told me way before the draft that he used to worry about size until he saw Ronde (Barber). "I'm going to go hard and give all I can. I've got to fight for my job every day. Giving them all I can should be good enough."
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