Bucs’ Demps ready to return to field


Published: Friday, September 27, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, September 28, 2013 at 12:56 a.m.

TAMPA — Track sprinters who make it to the NFL normally have a bad reputation.

They're labeled as soft. Afraid to go across the middle. One-dimensional.

Tampa Bay's Jeff Demps wants to change that.

The Olympic sprinter says flatly he's a football player who happens to be fast.

The Buccaneers hope that is true.

Demps is expected to be active for his first NFL game when the Bucs play the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

Coach Greg Schiano would not confirm whether Demps would be active or what role he would play. But while Demps was at the University of Florida, he was a top running back and strong special teams player.

“I'm pretty excited to see what it feels like to be out there,” said Demps, who hasn't played in a football game since the fourth preseason game of 2012, when with the New England Patriots, he suffered a knee injury and was placed on injured reserve, ending his NFL season before it started. “I am ready to take a couple of shots, take a couple of licks to see how it feels.

“I always considered myself a football player first,” he said. “I started when I was 6 (or) 7 years old. I didn't start running until high school. I am a football player, but at the same time, I'm a track athlete too.”

Demps has made the most of his skills as a sprinter.

He's the only athlete in Gator history to win national championships in multiple sports (2009 BCS national title and four indoor and outdoor track championships).

He was a member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic 4x100 meter relay team that won the silver medal in London and a member of the U.S. team that captured silver in the 2013 World Championships.

At Florida, he played in 51 football games with 27 starts, compiling 2,470 yards and 23 touchdowns, while adding 57 receptions for 481 yards and a score.

“Ah, he's not that fast,” Bucs safety Ahmad Black yelled as Demps was walking by. Black and Demps were teammates at Florida.

“No, we had a lot of guys that ran fast,” the Lakeland native said about Demps. “But he brought another dimension to our offense. He also did a lot of good things on special teams that utilized his speed.”

That's why the Bucs traded running back LeGarrette Blount to the Patriots for Demps on draft day.

The team understood his commitment to track. But when the track season ended in August, the team got an exemption from the league to allow him the time to get into football shape.

They like what they've seen from him so far.

“The thing that has impressed me with Jeff, after obviously his speed, is that when he came in here and worked on the scout team, he did everything you asked him to do,” Schiano said.

Demps intends to return to track when the NFL season is over, but for now he's ready to prove he is a legitimate NFL player.

“The best-case scenario is I'll go out and perform well and do what I have to do to help the team win,” Demps said. “At the end of the day, that's what it's all about anyway, winning.”

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