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Buccaneers missed Clinton McDonald’s businesslike approach

Former Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch coined the phrase, “I’m just bout that action boss,” when asked why he doesn’t like talking to the media during the Super Bowl. Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, who happened to be a former teammate of Lynch, is cut from the same cloth.

McDonald is far from shy, but although he has a deep, baritone voice, he talks just a level above a whisper. He rarely smiles. He plays with a passion that shows his work ethic, but he is not mean or rude. He doesn’t seek out the camera or the spotlight. At his position, it’s easy to overlook him because his stat totals don’t always jump out on paper. He does the dirty work, forcing double-teams or directing a running back to go wide, right into the arms of his awaiting teammates. His contributions may not be noticed by those who follow the football, but on film, one can easily see how the havoc caused by McDonald allows his teammates to make splashy plays.

McDonald won’t often give public pep talks to fire up the guys in the pregame warm-ups. He won’t typically be the guy who throws his teammates under the bus. He’s not going to do a sack dance after taking down Drew Brees, or flex his muscles after smacking a running back in the backfield. Normally, he just goes back to his huddle and gets ready for the next play.

Off the field, he’s just as valuable, being the man teammates can go to for advice on everything. His presence is respected by players and coaches alike. When the Buccaneers named captains, instead of going with the normal two captains on defense (Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David), former head coach Lovie Smith opened up another spot for McDonald. No one complained. McDonald is the ultimate team player for the Buccaneers, a respected leader who only wants to win.

The identity of a hard-working, no-nonsense guy comes from having nothing given to him. The six-year veteran went to Memphis out of high school, eventually working his way into the starting lineup. He became a First-Team All-Conference USA player as a senior. He was drafted in the seventh round by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2009 NFL Draft, a position that doesn’t guarantee much. He was placed on the practice squad and played in just eight games the following season before being traded to Seattle.

While in Seattle, McDonald became a key reserve on the defensive line. He made just two starts in 44 games for the Seahawks, but his work ethic has always stood out regardless of his role. He helped the Seahawks win a Super Bowl title before coming to the Buccaneers as a free agent.

“He’s always been a very mature player, a guy that was serious about his craft and wants to get better,” said defensive line coach Jay Hayes, who was with McDonald when he was in Cincinnati. “When he was a rookie and he was on the practice squad, we would have an away game. He would show up at the stadium when we get off the bus from the airport, he would be there every game. No one told him to do it. That’s just the kind of guy he is and that’s why he’s had the kind of success he’s had throughout the league in Seattle and Cincinnati and here. He is a grown man and he’s carried himself that way since I’ve known him.”

That is why last season was so tough for both McDonald and the Buccaneers. In the sixth game of the season, McDonald suffered a pectoral injury that forced him out for the remainder of the season. McDonald tried to remain a part of the team. He still attended meetings and was always seen at practice talking to the guys and following the defensive line in individual drills. During games, McDonald was always with his unit trying to help in any way he can.

Now he is back. During OTAs, McDonald is hitting the bags with a force that seems to show how much he missed being on the field, even in the upper-80 and 90-degree heat. It is a sight the Buccaneers are happy to see again.

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Neil S. Schwartz

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Jonathan Feinsod

Email: jonathan@sffootball.net

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