TAMPA - The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have decided to bury the hatchet with disgruntled left tackle Donald Penn.
Penn, who skipped the entire offseason workout program in an effort to express his displeasure over his contract status, was believed to be headed to Tampa late Friday in expectation of signing a contract extension early Saturday.
Though the two sides were still working on the details of the deal, the Bucs were hopeful late Friday that a contract for Penn would be completed in time for him to participate in the first training camp workout this morning.
"We're working it," Penn's agent, Rocky Arceneaux, said as he boarded a plane bound for Tampa late Friday.
Bucs general manager Mark Dominik did not make himself available for comment Friday, but Bucs coach Raheem Morris said earlier in the day that he was confident the Penn issue would be resolved quickly.
"Every conversation I've had with Donald has been positive and I think they'll continue to be that way," Morris said. "They've been positive with his coach and with the people around the building so we'll just have to wait and see."
If the wait is indeed over, it will bring to an end one of the most potentially disastrous issues Morris and Dominik have faced since they took over as Bucs coach and GM respectively last year.
With the team pinning most of its hopes on second-year quarterback Josh Freeman, it needs a talented and experienced left tackle protecting his blindside, but the Bucs don't have that behind Penn.
Their plan was to play second-year pro Demar Dotson, a former basketball player who just picked up football a few years ago, in place of Penn until the issue was resolved.
"Dotson is playing left tackle until Penn comes here," Morris said Friday. "You'll also see (second-year pro Xavier) Fulton in that that battle and (James) Lee will get into that battle."
Now it seems Dotson and Lee will be battling for the backup job to Penn, who fell out of favor a little bit last year when, according to the Bucs, he gained 40 pounds and struggled to play at a high level.
Despite their concerns, the Bucs retained Penn's rights by placing a tender on him that would have forced any team signing him to give the Bucs a first- and a third-round draft pick.
That tender carried with it a one-year, $3.168 million salary for 2010, but Penn refused to sign the offer and spent the offseason boycotting workouts in an attempt to force the Bucs into signing him to a long-term deal.
Now it seems Penn will get his wish, which means the Bucs may begin training camp workouts today with only one absentee - defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, the team's first-round draft pick.
Though talks aimed at getting McCoy under contract continued to move forward late Friday, there was still a good chance McCoy would miss at least the first workout of camp.
"Despite any rumors - no deal is done or agreed upon whatsoever," McCoy's agent, Ben Dogra, wrote in a text message to The Tribune. "It is important to Gerald to be in camp on time so we will make every effort to get a deal done."
Those efforts apparently included having McCoy board a plane for Tampa late Friday so that he could be ready to take the field in Tampa on Saturday should a deal suddenly get done.
"He (McCoy) has a house there (Tampa) and if we want to have a legit shot for this weekend it makes sense for him to be there just in case," Dogra wrote in a text.