TBO.com, The Tampa Tribune and The Tampa Times - breaking news and weather
Thursday, Jul 24, 2014
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs' Penn keeps standing tall in trenches

By
Published:   |   Updated: July 29, 2013 at 08:33 AM

TAMPA - Bob Bostad didn't know what to expect when Donald Penn reported to training camp last week.

The Buccaneers' offensive line coach hadn't seen his starting left tackle since mandatory minicamp concluded in mid-June, a long stretch that saw Penn return to his native California.

"They're grown men and I'm not chasing them around," Bostad said Sunday. "Donald had time off, but he prepared and we were all super impressed when he came back to Tampa. He came in ready to go, instead of, 'I'll get myself in shape when I get there.' You see that (attitude), too, sometimes."

Bucs co-chairman Bryan Glazer is equally impressed with Penn's renewed commitment toward an organization that rewarded him with a lucrative six-year deal in 2010.

"Donald Penn wants to win," Glazer said. "I told him I've never seen him so fit in my entire life. He has worked so hard to get where he is. He's a guy who appreciates the position he's in and he's motivated because he knows how good this team is around him."

Plucked off Minnesota's practice squad in 2006, Penn has been a fixture at left tackle for the past six years. He'll enter the regular-season opener against the Jets with a streak of 92 consecutive starts.

"The biggest thing that sticks out to me about Donald last year is that he was always there," Bostad said. "He took every rep. Not only were we missing guys in games, we were missing guys in practice. He was putting in the time, fighting off the injuries. Toughness is huge in the NFL and this guy was in there, battling."

While his linemates were dropping all around him, Penn stood tall in the trenches as the Bucs set franchise single-season records for points (389) and total yards (5,820).

Still, Penn rarely gets mentioned in discussions ranking the league's premier left tackles.

"The way you all talk about me, man, sometimes I feel like I haven't done anything in this league," said Penn, who was named to the 2011 Pro Bowl. "I let it go, I'm a funny, easy-going guy, but I do have a little chip on my shoulder. It's going to be tough on the people I'm playing against."

After lugging around 360 pounds at times on his 6-foot-5 frame last year, Penn shed 35 pounds during a rigorous offseason program that left him lean and bullish about the 2013 Bucs.

"The culture's changing," he said. "Now, it's our job to turn it into wins. I'm really excited about this season. I think we're going to surprise a lot of people, but I'm tired of talking about it."

In yielding 26 sacks last season, Tampa Bay allowed Josh Freeman to be dropped more than twice in a game only once, with the Rams registering five sacks in Week 16.

Despite receiving minimal help, Penn took on some of the NFL's premier rushers and provided solid protection.

"At left tackle, you're going to get the best they've got," Bostad said. "Every week, you're going to be challenged. I never once sensed any apprehension from Donald heading into a game."

How much support did the Bucs send Penn's way?

"We didn't try to reinvent the wheel," Bostad said. "A lot of times, we just looked at Donald and said: 'It's on you.' "

Penn's not complaining. He gets geeked up when he knows he's facing elite right ends like Jared Allen or John Abraham, who just signed with Arizona as a free agent.

Penn has owned Abraham in recent years, limiting the former Falcons standout to only one sack in the past eight meetings.

"I can't speak for anyone else, but I appreciate Donald," Bostad said. "He's got a lot of pride - and it shows."

ikaufman@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7833

Twitter: @IKaufmanTBO

Comments