If the mystery surrounding Arron Sears isn't cleared up by Friday, don't expect the Bucs to go into panic mode.
Tampa Bay coaches are confident the offensive line won't suffer if second-year pro Jeremy Zuttah has to replace Sears at left guard, beginning with the opening practice of training camp Saturday morning at the team facility.
Zuttah, a third-round pick out of Rutgers in 2008, started five games as a rookie. The Bucs ran very efficiently with Zuttah on the field, averaging 4.7 yards per carry, compared to an average gain of 3.8 yards per rush in the 11 games Zuttah did not start.
Sears, who has missed only one start in his two NFL seasons, did not attend last month's mandatory mini-camp and the club has been cryptic in explaining Sears' excused absence, alluding to unspecified "personal problems.''
New coach Raheem Morris remains unsure whether Sears will show up on reporting day or whether he can rely on the former Tennessee standout to play a pivotal role on a line that new offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski considers a team strength.
Zuttah started the first four games of the 2008 season at right guard after Davin Joseph suffered a broken foot. He also opened at left guard in Week 9 at Kansas City when Sears was inactive with a concussion.
Zuttah graduated with an economics degree in 3 1-2 years and his smarts appear to make him a natural fit for new offensive line coach Pete Mangurian.
"We want guys that can compete, guys that improve, guys that don't repeat mistakes,'' Mangurian said. "Guys that are aware of what is going on. We've got to be physical, we've got to be intelligent and we've got to be consistent.''