Cornerback Myron Lewis is as puzzled as anyone about why his career is off to a painfully slow start with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The third-year pro battled nagging injuries that made it a struggle to get on the field the past two seasons, but he's confident he's on the verge of proving the team didn't make a mistake by drafting him in the third round.
Nearly two weeks into training camp, Lewis is the healthiest he's been during an NFL preseason and is eager to take advantage of an opportunity to work with the first-team defense while starter Aquib Talib is resting a sore hamstring and key reserve E.J. Biggers is out with a broken foot.
Lewis is still learning the team's new defensive scheme but is getting more comfortable each day. Just as important, he's making plays in practice and building confidence.
"I started off a little slow trying to get used to different techniques," he said of his transition to coach Greg Schiano's system. "It's all about buying in, focusing and keeping my concentration."
Heading into his rookie season, the Bucs (No. 26 in the AP Pro32) envisioned Lewis contributing mostly as a fifth defensive back and were hopeful he'd eventually develop into a solid replacement for Ronde Barber, who at 37 is moving from cornerback to safety this year.
But instead of stepping into the starting lineup, Lewis is just trying his best to get on the field in any role this summer.
An abdominal strain slowed his development his first season. Hamstring and ankle injuries set him back in 2011, when he appeared in just 10 games and finished with nine tackles and no interceptions.
Lewis missed 12 games over the past two seasons.
"I was frustrated. You're out there watching everyone and you want to get out there and play, too, and you can't," he said. "You're happy for your teammates, but seeing everybody out there -- and you're not -- can be kind of depressing, too. You have to get yourself pepped up and be a good teammate."
Biggers was injured the first week of camp. Talib's sore hamstring is not considered serious, but it's giving Lewis a chance to make an impression on a new coaching staff.
"It's sad to see the man in front of you go down, but Coach is depending on the next man coming up to do the same exact job as the guy in front of you," Lewis said. "I've got the opportunity to play, so I'm going to go ahead and play."
Schiano has seen steady improvement in camp.
"He started slow but has been getting better each day," Schiano said. "Myron has a couple of little bad habits that if he can get them corrected, he can be an effective corner."
Lewis adjusted his diet and training routine this offseason in hopes of giving himself a chance to stay healthy.
"I've been hurt the past two years. Nobody's really seen me play, so I'm just putting that pressure on myself to stay healthy, do my job," the 6-foot-2, 203-pound cornerback out of Vanderbilt said. "I know I can play. They drafted me for a reason."
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