LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) -Versatility, speed and experience.
Cato June offered the Tampa Bay Buccaneers everything they were looking for to bolster a declining defense, and the free agent linebacker welcomed an opportunity to flourish for a new team.
Even if it meant changing positions and leaving the Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts for the retooling Bucs, who have missed the playoffs three of the past four seasons.
``I think it's a good fit,'' said June, who spent the first four seasons of his pro career playing weakside linebacker in a defensive scheme similar to the Tampa 2 system the Bucs popularized over the past decade.
And, it certainly didn't hurt that the Bucs, who will use June at strongside linebacker, also gave him a three-year, $12 million contract to upgrade a defense that ranked 17th overall in 2006 after allowing the fewest yards in the NFL two years ago.
It was the first time since 1996 they didn't finish among the 10 stingiest teams in the league.
June is one of four projected new starters, along with middle linebacker Barrett Ruud, defensive end Gaines Adams and either Jovan Haye or Kevin Carter at tackle.
``He's had a knack for making plays. Whatever position you play him at, weakside or strongside, he's going to be a guy that shows up where the ballcarrier is,'' coach Jon Gruden said.
``He's really fast. You see why he's really good in this scheme. He can play the outside linebacker position with an effortless style. He's got great familiarity with our defense, certainly, but he's also got great athleticism.''
A sixth-round draft pick who started 45 regular season and seven playoff games over the past three seasons for Indianapolis, June led the Colts with a career-best 162 tackles and tied for the team lead with three interceptions in 2006.
June conceded that finally realizing expectations of winning the Super Bowl made it easier to leave Indianapolis.
``You had a feeling you'd leave something on the shelf if I would have left and we hadn't won the championship when you're expected to win,'' he said.
``We finally got it done. I think that was most satisfying. It's always hard to leave a good situation, good program, good people. It's just part of the game, and you have to move on.''
June didn't have any misgivings about changing positions.
Derrick Brooks has been a Pro Bowl selection on the weakside for 10 consecutive seasons, and he's the player former Bucs and current Colts coach Tony Dungy had June study on film for the past four seasons.
``I kind of have been learning from him from afar,'' June said of Brooks, who played for Dungy from 1996-2001. ``Now I'll be able to watch and learn while I'm lining up next to him. I'll be able to talk to him and those sort of things.''
Through offseason workouts and the first few days of training camp, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin has been impressed with what he's seen. Although June is still learning the Bucs system, he gets a little more comfortable with the transition each day.
``Once I pick up the language and the different terminology, it will be downhill from there,'' June said.
Kiffin agreed.
``There is a little carryover. There's no doubt about that,'' Kiffin said. ``When you call Tampa 2, it isn't like he's never heard that before. There are a lot of things that are very similar, although I think wherever he went he'd be a good darn football player.''
Sports Insights' Advanced Betting Tools - NFL Free 14-Day Trial

NFL Team Pages

Recent NFL Discussions