The Buccaneers called Jeff Charleston in his home north of New Orleans on Monday night with an urgent message: Your plane is leaving in 45 minutes.
Charleston, a free agent defensive end who signed with the Buccaneers this week after the team lost Adrian Clayborn for the year, had some earlier clues that the team was interested. He happens to know Clayborn and share an agent with him, and was aware of the unhappy results of the MRI on Clayborn’s knee. He also shared a locker room with Bucs guard Carl Nicks for the previous four years in New Orleans and had a chance to speak to his former (and now current) teammate on the phone.
Still, word that the Bucs had indeed decided to sign him and wanted him on his way to Florida immediately came less than an hour before takeoff. He shoved a handful of clothes in a duffel bag and headed out the door. It might not have been convenient, but it was what he had been waiting for since he was released by the Minnesota Vikings, with whom he had signed as a free agent in June, at the end of the preseason.
“It’s a great opportunity,” said Charleston after his first practice in Tampa. “It’s great to be here, part of a good team. The way this team is run is top-notch, first-class. The discipline here, the quality of the guys on this team…this is where I want to be.”
Charleston stayed up late Tuesday night and got up early in the morning to study the Bucs’ defense and, after initially feeling overwhelmed, started to get a grasp on the various schemes and plays. He said he would feel comfortable in the defense within two days but has no idea if the team will call on him to play on Sunday against Washington. He knows he needs to get the playbook down because he can tell that mental lapses won’t be tolerated.
“The hustle, the attention to detail – right away, that’s the first thing I noticed,” he said. “Everyone’s on top of it. Yeah, it’s a younger defense and you would think guys would be immature, but that’s not the case here.”