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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Briscoe making push for playing time

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Published:   |   Updated: March 20, 2013 at 06:05 PM
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -

The list of friends, family members and former teammates who wanted tickets to see Dezmon Briscoe play against the Chiefs in the Buccaneers' preseason opener at Arrowhead Stadium on Friday night was rather lengthy.

The number Briscoe actually accommodated was quite small — just five, he said, because this is the preseason, and Briscoe believes there will be plenty of chances for friends and family to come watch him play when the games begin to count.

It seems he might be right. Though the former Kansas star is running behind Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn at wide receiver, he proved himself worthy of regular-season playing time during the Bucs' 25-0 victory.

The player receivers coach Eric Yarber refers to as the Bucs' best route runner, Briscoe didn't just lead all receivers with four receptions and 60 receiving yards; he also led the way in plaudits from his head coach.

"I remember talking about Dez a while ago and how he might be one of our better receivers, and he's done nothing but show me and prove to us that he can play this game,'' Bucs coach Raheem Morris said. "I'm fired up about him.''

Mark Dominik had a feeling he would be. The Bucs general manager watched Briscoe closely during his college career, and when he slipped through the Bucs' hands during the 2010 draft, Dominik laid out a plan to steal him away from the team that grabbed him, the Cincinnati Bengals.

Certain that the Bengals would release Briscoe during their final cut and then offer him a place on their practice squad, Dominik waited for Briscoe to be cut, then swooped in and enticed him to join the Bucs' practice squad instead by offering him a better-than-market value four-year contract.

A year later the move certainly seems to be paying off for the Bucs. Briscoe is part of a young receiving corps that has the potential to blossom into one of the league's best and most feared.

And while Briscoe still has some work to do to move past Williams and Benn and earn a spot in the starting lineup, he said he made the right choice in leaving Cincinnati for Tampa Bay.

"I feel like it was the best situation for me,'' Briscoe said of signing with the Bucs. "I've surrounded myself here with a bunch of young guys my age and with a young coach and so I think it's what was best for me.''

One of those young guys Briscoe is surrounded by is his quarterback, Josh Freeman. A former Kansas State star, Freeman was a rival of Briscoe's through college, but the two are fast becoming close friends now.

"When I first came here there was a bunch of controversy with the Kansas-Kansas State thing, but we ended up bonding, and I think he looks a little more for me on the field now, so it's a good thing,'' Briscoe said.

Freeman had little choice but to look for Briscoe on Friday. Benn sat out the game and the Chiefs double-teamed Williams on several plays, leaving Freeman with Briscoe as his best option.

"In the absence of Arrelious, he's really stepped up (as) a key contributor,'' Freeman said. "Whether it's at camp or (on Friday), he's a guy that's capable of going out and making plays and I'm looking forward to his progression."

Briscoe progressed quietly a year ago. Stashed away on the Bucs' practice squad, he remained a relative unknown right up until the time he was promoted to the active roster for the final two games of the regular season.

In those two games, though, Briscoe quickly proved why Dominik had worked so hard to get him. After a modest two-catch debut against the Seahawks, he caught a team-high four passes for 65 yards and a touchdown in the season-ending victory over the Saints.

"That really helped me a lot to make the transition from college to the pros,'' Briscoe said of playing the final two games last year. "I got some good playing time in crunch time there, and it's transitioned over to training camp and so now I just want to keep progressing. Consistency is the key for me now.''


rcummings@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7979

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