The Tampa Bay Buccaneers,
a team desperately in need of a pass-rush presence after finishing out of the
top 10 in sacks for the first time since 1997, responded by drafting Adams with
the fourth overall selection. On July 27, the same day that Tampa Bay released
veteran pass rusher Simeon Rice, Adams signed a six-year, $46 million contract
with $18.56 million in guaranteed money. The Buccaneers could not have made
a more definitive statement – Gaines Adams would be the future of their defense.
Adams is no collegiate fluke
– he has what it takes to succeed at the NFL level. But every rookie,
no matter how talented, arrives at Destination: Reality. It’s their “Welcome
to the NFL” moment; that play, or series of plays, in which their raw
talent, and relative lack of professional experience, will be revealed.
Adams will face his moment
very soon after he runs out onto Seattle’s Qwest Field for his first regular-season
NFL game. When he puts his hand down at the right defensive end position, he’ll
look up into the eyes of Seattle’s left tackle, a man who has spent more
than a decade turning gifted players like Adams into yard waste.
Gaines Adams, meet Walter Jones. He’ll be your worst nightmare for the next three hours.
The legends are all true.
How Jones turned Patrick Kerney, Seattle’s high-priced free-agent defender,
into a wheezing self-parody in a game against Kerney’s Falcons in 2005.
How he bulled Carolina’s Mike Rucker backward, running step-for-step with
Shaun Alexander for fifteen yards, until he almost disemboweled Rucker with
a takedown and helmet spike in the 2005 NFC Championship Game. How he played
18 games on a sprained ankle in 2006. How he pushes his brother-in-law’s
2002 Cadillac Escalade up and down a parking lot near his off-season home in
Alabama. Weight Program? Please. Walter Jones prefers the Auto Club. Which defensive
lineman stands a chance?
Several of them stood a
chance last season, as Jones’ injuries and a great deal of upheaval along
Seattle’s line brought forth Jones’ least effective season. He allowed
nine blown blocks according to Football Outsiders’ numbers, and 10.5 sacks
according to STATS, Inc. Now, he’s back and ready to perform at his peak
after sitting out most of the preseason as a precautionary measure to rest his
surgically repaired shoulder. With second-year guard Rob Sims showing great
progress to Jones’ right, the Seahawks’ best player when healthy
is ready to make the point all over again.
Adams, who has seen enough
of Jones to know what he’s in for, has few doubts. ““I’m
very anxious; it’s live bullets right now,” the rookie said. “This
is when they count, so you’re going to get everyone’s best effort
and fortunate enough, I start off with Walter Jones. Starting off against Walter
Jones is going to be a big test for me, to show me where I am at right now.”
Tampa Bay head coach Jon
Gruden has seen more than enough of Jones. “We’ve all got to get
ready for Walter because he’ll be ready for you,” the Bucs’
mercurial leader said. “Walter will be ready for you.
”Whoever is on Walter
Jones is going to get as good a football player as there has been in the league
the last seven, eight, nine years at left tackle. Gaines Adams, Joe Adams, The
Adams Family – anybody who plays – better be ready to go."