TAMPA — Consistency is the key.
Sidelined for nearly two weeks by a calf strain, Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Luke Stocker got off to a slow start in training camp.
It wasn’t the first time he limped through the start of camp.
Two years ago, Stocker missed most of the first month of his rookie camp after injuring a hip only a day into workouts. This year, he hurt his calf while running wind sprints two days before the start of team workouts. Stocker, Tampa Bay’s fourth-round pick in 2011, has been playing catch-up ever since.
The calf injury slowed him at what might be the most critical juncture in his young career.
After three years playing behind Kellen Winslow and Dallas Clark, Stocker has a shot to open the season as the Bucs’ top tight end. That’s why the timing of the calf injury was so frustrating.
“This is absolutely (my) shot, without a doubt,’’ Stocker said. “They’re handing the job to me and saying, ‘It’s yours, you have to take it and run with it.’ That’s why this injury has been so frustrating.’’
Stocker isn’t the only one who’s frustrated.
The Bucs signed only Tom Crabtree in free agency because they think Stocker is on the brink of breakout year. Stocker caught eight passes for 89 yards over three games at the end of 2012, but realizes he has to maintain that level to reach his goals.
“I think I’ve shown promise,’’ he said. “Now, it’s a matter of consistently doing good things, because if you show promise you stick around. But if you want to be a great player you have to be consistent.”