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Tuesday, Sep 23, 2014
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Spence fending off rivals for starting nose tackle

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— The arrival through free agency last spring of veteran Clinton McDonald seemed to signal the end of 2013 rookie Akeem Spence’s brief run as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting nose tackle.

A member of the Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl XLVII team and a bona fide pass rusher, Clinton was expected to push Spence into a backup role, and he still might. But he hasn’t done it yet.

Spence proved to be one of the Bucs better players through their offseason workout program and if he continues to play at a high level during training camp, he could still fend off the challenge from McDonald.

“We bring in Clinton and essentially, the writing could have been on the wall for Akeem that he’s no longer the starter,’’ Bucs general manager Jason Licht said Wednesday. “But Akeem’s been working harder than anybody.

“He just hasn’t let up on the gas. It was fun watching that competition between him and Clinton during our OTAs and our mincamps, and I expect it to continue in training camp.’’

While Licht had words of praise for Spence, he all but issued a warning to defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, saying the 2011 second-round draft pick needs to make an impact in this camp, or else.

“I (don’t) mean to sound too harsh, but it’s a matter of fact that he needs to prove that he wants to make an impact with this football team and I expect that he will,’’ Licht said.

rcummings@tampatrib.com

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Twitter: @RcummingsTBO

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