When came into the NFL as a seventh-round pick of the Bucs three years ago, Erik Lorig had no idea he'd eventually find his niche at the fullback position.
If he stuck around at all, Lorig thought, it probably would be as a defensive end, tight end or maybe an H-back, one of the three positions he played in high school and at Stanford University.
The Bucs pretty much thought the same thing. After all, they spent the better part of a year working Lorig at those three spots before finally deciding last year to make him a fullback, where his role is quickly expanding.
Primarily a run blocker last season, when he was pressed into duty after Earnest Graham was lost for the season with a torn Achilles tendon, Lorig could be a big part of the passing game this year.
After catching all of six passes in 2011, Lorig caught four in Tampa Bay's season -opening victory against Carolina, and there's little reason to believe that trend won't continue.
As a former tight end, Lorig has a good feel for route running and pretty good hands. On one catch last week, he grabbed a ball thrown a little behind him and over his head.
It was a catch Lorig might have struggled to make two years ago and maybe even last year, when he was still altering his body from a defensive end type to a fullback type.
"I came (into the league) heavy, about 275 pounds, and it's been a process of leaning out and trying to be more efficient with my weight,'' said Lorig, who now weighs 250 pounds.
"Part of it is just being more professional. You know – better diet, running, just being more conscious of my weight. But I feel a lot different from Day 1 here. Just in terms of the body change, it's a big difference.''
The difference in Lorig's weight is almost as big as the difference in his focus, which is finally singular on one position. That's another reason his role as a pass catcher – and maybe even a runner – may continue to grow.
"It's nice to just be focusing on just one position and I think I'm starting to gain some benefit from that,'' Lorig said. "I always wanted (the offensive part of my game) to resurface and I feel like this is a good step toward that.''
Seems like old times
It didn't take long for WR Vincent Jackson to make an impact on the offense and fellow wideout Mike Williams, in particular. Though he only caught four passes during the opening-day victory, Jackson played a big role in Williams' biggest catch of the day: a 6-yard touchdown.
"My touchdown came against one-on-one coverage, and I usually wouldn't get that in the red zone,'' Williams said. "But having Vincent Jackson on the field, he changes a lot of things and he's making things a lot easier for a lot of us. It was nice to get some one-on-one opportunities again.''
Williams' touchdown reception was the 15th of his career and marked the third consecutive season opener in which he caught a touchdown pass. His other opening-day TD catches came against Cleveland in 2010 and Detroit in 2011. All were thrown by QB Josh Freeman.
All about 5
Freeman is on the brink of moving into a couple of positions in the Bucs all-time passing records that match the number he wears on his uniform.
With 9,036 career passing yards, Freeman needs just 404 to pass Steve DeBerg and move into fifth place on the all-time passing yardage list. He also needs just 10 touchdown passes to reach 62 and pass DeBerg for fifth place on that all-time list.