Ex-Gator Black makes impression at safety for Bucs
Ahmad Black is used to taking on the numbers and coming out No. 1. His size (5-foot-9, 184) and speed (4.7) may be ordinary by NFL standards, but the second-year safety of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is making a persuasive case to stick when the 53-man roster is set Aug. 31.
The former University of Florida standout showcased his ball instincts in Friday night's 30-7 preseason loss to Tennessee, picking off a Jake Locker pass in the opening quarter and returning it 29 yards to set up Tampa Bay's only touchdown.
"He's a hard-working young man,'' said Bucs cornerback Eric Wright. "Ahmad Black is doing his best to go out there and make plays. And when he gets this defense down, he's going to be a guy that can help us.''
Black added two special teams tackles against the Titans, but he was also flagged for a personal foul penalty and he took a poor angle on Chris Johnson's second 14-yard touchdown run of the evening.
"I had a mixture out there,'' Black said after the game. "All in all, it was a great learning experience. I don't have any regrets on the personal foul – I try to give it my all for my teammates and coaches.''
Tampa Bay's new head coach has already noticed. "He seems to be around the ball quite a lot, whether it's in practice or in a game,'' said Greg Schiano. "He has a knack.''
After being selected in the fifth round of the 2011 draft, Black suffered a high ankle sprain in the first preseason game of his rookie year, limiting his opportunities to impress Tampa Bay's coaching staff.
Black didn't survive the final cut, but he was re-signed by the Bucs a few days later and assigned to the practice squad until he was activated in Week 14.
Playing in the final four games, capped by a fumble recovery at Atlanta in the season finale, gave Black some valuable pro experience.
"My comfort level is a lot higher than it was last year as a rookie,'' Black said. "We had a lockout situation and I didn't get a lot of practice reps before I got hurt. It was a little bit tough for me, but playing down the stretch helped me get used to game speed and the way things work in the NFL.''
Black is backing up veteran Ronde Barber, who has switched to safety after 15 seasons as an NFL corner. First-round pick Mark Barron starts with Barber and other safeties on the 90-man roster include Black, Larry Asante, Cody Grimm and rookies Tramain Thomas, Sean Baker and Keith Tandy, who can also play corner.
Black said he can't afford to get caught up in another numbers game. All he can do is control his effort and performance. Black's interception came on a third-and-9 play when Locker was flushed out of the pocket to his right and tried to throw back across the field.
"I made sure I was the deepest man on the field and I came away with one,'' said Black, a 4-year starter for the Gators after helping Lakeland High to 45 consecutive wins and three Class 5A state titles.
Black cut toward the right sidelines and appeared to be on his way to the end zone before he was pushed out of bounds at Tennessee's 2-yard line.
"I thought I was going to score until about 300 pounds (315-pound tackle David Stewart) fell on top of me,'' Black said with a grin. "I'm not too disappointed, though, because right after that (two plays later) we scored. All I care about is the seven points.''
|About the writer|
Ira Kaufman has long been both a great writer for The Tampa Tribune and friend to the Bucs UK and BUCPOWER.COM. He writes on all sports for the paper but during the NFL season offers his stories on not just the Buccaneers, but also the NFL in general.