TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Having mentors is such an important facet of development in the NFL, especially leading up to that first preseason game. As far as advice for the rookies—or any young players on the team—Bucs’ cornerback Jamel Dean went back to the heart of it all. 

“Don’t worry about playing too tight,” Dean said. “Play loose and just have fun! At the end of the day, it’s all about having fun. You’ve been playing football maybe your whole career, your whole life, and you’ve played college football, so there’s no difference – there’s probably more fans in college – the only difference is now, you’re just in the spotlight, where you’re considered a professional now. But just go out there, just do what you’ve been doing for all your years.” 

Dean said this offseason he wanted to take on a bigger leadership role himself and explained what that’s looked like so far in training camp. 

“The younger guys, they come up to me and asking questions,” Dean said. “I know on the field, I’ve got to lead by example because they’re watching me. So they figure, ‘If I do everything he does, it should help me get to the next point in my career.’ So it’s more like leading by example and then in meeting rooms, explaining things like how I see it and why they should do certain things. But I’m still letting them play their own game, but if they ask for advice, I’ll tell them.” 

Dean isn’t the only one taking on this responsibility. The mentorship can be seen throughout the Bucs’ locker room. 

“For sure. You see Lavonte [David] talking with [SirVocea] Dennis all the time,” said Bucs’ running back Chase Edmonds. “I think you definitely see, I know he’s been injured right now [Calijah] Kancey—but with Vita [Vea] and Kancey, I think that it’s just important to catch young guys up to speed—especially young guys who are going to have a vital role for this team.”

“Coming in, 23, 22-years-old playing big-time minutes, playing big-time roles in the NFL, it’s a lot of pressure. But at the same time, the youth, they kind of don’t even realize it, so that’s also the beauty of it. But you know, just again, honing in on our experience and letting them know what to expect, you know how to deal with the highs and the lows of this league,” he continued.

As those younger players fight for playing time—or roster spots—throughout the preseason, the coaches will have some tough decisions to make in sorting out their depth chart and making cuts.

Head coach Todd Bowles said this year’s roster decisions are going to be tougher than last year’s, particularly at outside linebacker.