TAMPA — When he was catching passes from Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M, Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie wide receiver Mike Evans almost always lined up and caught them on the right side of the field.
As a result, Evans never got into the habit of switching the ball from his right hand to his left. Much like cornerback Brent Grimes, Evans’ failure to develop that skill caught up to him Saturday night.
Evans had a 42-yard touchdown reception wiped out after Grimes stripped the ball from him just before he cross the goal line in Tampa Bay’s 20-14 loss to Miami. Evans’ lack of comfort carrying the ball in his left hand is one reasons why.
“I’ve never done it,’’ Evans said of switching the ball from his right hand to his left. “Emmitt Smith always held the ball in his left hand, I think it was, and I just always held in my right. Now I have to learn to (carry it in) both.’’
And he needs to learn quickly. Evans is expected to start for the Bucs opposite Vincent Jackson, but won’t be working exclusively on the right side the way he did at A&M.
Evans has lined up wide right, wide left and even in the slot. He understands the need to quickly develop a skill he never saw a need for in college.
“Yeah, that’s another thing I need to practice, holding the ball in my outside arm, whatever side I’m on,’’ Evans said. “I just have to make sure I do it in practice and make it a habit.’’
The Bucs have already taken steps to ensure Evans is comfortable carrying the ball in both arms, coach Lovie Smith said, adding the habit is not difficult to develop.
“Learning how to catch the football is a hard thing, putting it in your other arm won’t be very hard,’’ Smith said. “My experience says we can get that done.’’
Not there yet
It’s critical CB Alterraun Verner get some work in the third preseason game Saturday at Buffalo, Smith said. And Verner doesn’t disagree.
That doesn’t mean it’s going to happen, though.
Still recovering from a hamstring strain that sidelined him for all but a day or two of training camp, Verner said Tuesday he’s still not sure if he’s well enough to make his preseason debut.
“I wouldn’t want to say that it’s 100 percent that I’ll be playing,’’ Verner said. “We have to do what’s best and see how I feel. But if I do get out there, hopefully everything holds up.’’
Verner is projected to be one of the starting corners on opening day against the Panthers, and getting used to Smith’s defense requires time on the field.
“It’s not like (the starters) are going to do an awful lot that last preseason game,’’ Smith said. “So, if they’re going to play against Carolina, we need to see them right now. If not, we’re in a hole a little bit.’’
DE Michael Johnson (knee bruise) sat out Tuesday’s workout, but Smith said he should be okay to play Saturday. DE Steven Means (groin) returned to practice ahead of schedule and should play Saturday, as well. DE Da’Quan Bowers (groin) and CB Mike Jenkins (leg) continued to sit out.