Just three days into Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp, Mike Edwards has found himself emerging as a leader for the safety position.
This past Friday, the Bucs placed starting safety Jordan Whitehead on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Then on Monday, Antione Winfield Jr. missed practice after initially testing positive for the coronavirus.
While Winfield Jr. was able to return to the field Tuesday after it was determined the test was a false-positive, Edwards was suddenly the most experienced member of the safety unit at practice for one day. For the third-year pro, this meant having to step up as the leader of the group, something that wasn't surprising to him.
“Yeah, but they expect that from me," Edwards said about having more of a leadership role among the safety position. "[I’ve] been here going on for three years so they expect me to come in and lead and have a good leadership role, especially when guys go out and I have to step in and be one of the leaders and be more vocal.”
Being more vocal as not only a safety but a member of the entire Bucs' secondary is something that is key to success for Tampa Bay. Last season, the Bucs totaled 22 interceptions over the course of 20 games, seven of which came from the team's safeties. During the regular season, the 15 interceptions were the seventh-most in the league.
“I say for secondary the biggest part is communication because you have to communicate to everybody, especially to the safeties," Edwards said. "We have to communicate and get them lined up and let them know where you’re at. Communication is definitely the key.”
While Tampa Bay's secondary was able to force turnovers last season and into the postseason en route to a Super Bowl championship, the consistent play was lacking. After opening the 2020 season with four interceptions in the first four games, the Bucs didn't record one interception in the next four games. There was also a three-game stretch later in the year with no interceptions forced.
So how can Tampa Bay's secondary be more consistent in this upcoming season? Edwards explained it's just a matter of putting more work in during practice.
"Keep building each other up," Edwards said. "Keep going day-by-day. Not looking forward to the next day but taking it one day at a time. Keeping each other humble and keep working. I mean we come out here working as I said with limited guys and we’re still putting in work. Building the playbook and getting the playbook in our mental right. I feel like we’re doing a very good job on our secondary."
Bucs' cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting agrees with Edwards. Murphy-Bunting explained "forgetting everything that happened last year" will help too.
"All of us are trying to get to that second contract, that big payday and so it starts on the practice field," Murphy-Bunting said. "It starts when you come in and prepare each and every day whether it’s the film, whether it’s the preparation, whether it’s taking care of your body. Just knowing how to be a pro, and I say that every single year. Learning how to be a veteran and learning how to be a pro goes a long way.”
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