Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Nicks bringing power, glower to Bucs O-line
TAMPA - As Buccaneer fans are about to discover, Carl Nicks looms as one of the biggest acquisitions in franchise history. Charitably listed at 343 pounds, the 6-foot-5 guard is turning helmets at training camp as the two-time Pro Bowl guard dazzles teammates with a rare blend of power and finesse. "He literally is a mountain of a man,'' right tackle Jeremy Trueblood said after Sunday's practice. "I've never seen anyone that big who can move that well. He's every bit of 343, I can tell you that much, but people that big don't have his quick feet.'' The Bucs targeted Nicks at the start of free agency and quickly moved in with a 5-year deal that includes $31 million in guaranteed money, weakening the Saints in the process."Carl is a great teammate, a no-nonsense guy,'' said Bucs general manager Mark Dominik. "He makes you feel good just being around him and I consider him a prototypical offensive lineman – big, serious and tough. We took a Pro Bowl lineman off a division rival and put him on our team.'' Through three days of training camp, Nicks has exhibited the nasty tone craved by new head coach Greg Schiano. "To see how he dominates people is crazy,'' said Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who lined up across from Nicks in two career games against the Saints. "Carl Nicks is the nicest dude you'll meet, always smiling, loves to have fun. Then he gets on the field and he's dangerous. It's no hard feelings, it's nothing personal, but he's not going to let you beat him.'' Nicks, a fifth-round pick out of Nebraska in 2008 after playing left tackle as a senior, has started 61 consecutive pro games at guard. In New Orleans, where the Saints gained an NFL-record 7,474 yards last season, Nicks excelled in an offense built around the prolific right arm of Drew Brees. "I've always said I like run blocking better than pass blocking,'' Nicks said. "Obviously, Drew is a great quarterback and he made all of us look good, but here in Tampa I will get to showcase my run blocking more … and I'm excited about it.'' The signing of Nicks should help ease the transition for Jeremy Zuttah, who is vacating the left guard spot to replace veteran Jeff Faine at center. With Nicks on his left and fellow Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph operating off his right shoulder, Zuttah is eager to showcase Tampa Bay's new interior design. "Nicks is just so strong,'' Zuttah said. "And for how big he is, he moves just as well as anyone. When we started working out in the spring, he'd come over to the bench after me and handle it like it was a kid's weight. It's nice to have those two guys on either side of me.'' Nicks' immense presence should give new offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan an array of attractive options in short-yardage situations. "Carl has a chance to be even more of a factor in the run game here than he did in New Orleans,'' Dominik said. "Davin is also an outstanding player, so you don't know which direction we're going -- and that's what makes it exciting on third-and-1. We can run behind this Pro Bowl guard or that Pro Bowl guard.'' When preparing for the New Orleans defense the past few years, Joseph couldn't refrain from popping on a tape of the Saints attack to marvel at the skill set of big No. 77. "I've watched Carl Nicks for a long time,'' Joseph said, "and I'm really happy to have him here. Donald Penn finally has a really solid player next to him that's going to be here for a while. That's going to help Penn develop as a left tackle.'' Once camp began Friday, McCoy quickly realized he can't afford to let his focus wilt against Nicks in the heat. "Carl Nicks is just a great football player,'' said McCoy, "and as the season progresses, Buc fans will realize just how great this guy is. They'll see that Josh Freeman isn't getting torched up the middle and our run game is solid. I'm just happy he's on our side of the football field now.''