The Sports Xchange

Bucs LBs shed L-Bs to fit Smith's scheme TAMPA, Fla. - Considering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers added 40 new players since he was hired, Lovie Smith has trimmed a lot of fat from the roster. Smith didn't stop there.

Smith gave players a directive: become lighter and quicker before training camp or suffer the consequences. So far, they have obliged.

Seven pounds were shed by middle linebacker Mason Foster. Running back Doug Martin cut out Domino's pizza and KFC, then watched his body fat plummet from 11 to 8.8 percent. Linebacker Danny Lansanah lost 13 L-Bs.

"I just think weight is one of the most overrated things that there is," Smith said. "Strength isn't. Weight is. The lighter we are the quicker and faster we'll be."

Starved for success, the Bucs are eating to win again.

In Tampa Bay, St. Louis and Chicago, Smith preferred lighter, quicker players, especially on defense. But there is need for speed on both sides of the ball.

Prior to going on their five-week hiatus between the end of the mandatory minicamp in June and the start of training camp last week, Smith challenged his players to belly up to the salad bar - skip the fatty dressings.

Foster, who played at around 242 pounds last year, experienced woes in coverage and had more straight-line speed than lateral quickness. Earlier in his career, he would come off the field on third down and then-rookie Lavonte David called the defensive signals.

But Smith is so reliant on the middle linebacker as the eyes and nose of his cover-2, because he is the quarterback of the defense who must play every snap. Foster did what every mom encourages and started eating all his vegetables.

"I'm losing a lot of body fat and it's helped me," Foster said. "I tried to eat a lot of vegetables. I don't really like vegetables, but I've been doing well. I'm eating a lot of vegetables, eating turkey, eating turkey burgers. It was tough at first but got used to it and it's paid off.

"I guess I've lost like seven pounds. It's really about being in better shape. ... Now I like green beans, corn. My mom makes me broccoli. She's been helping me out. It's been going good. I feel a lot quicker, a lot lighter on my feet."

Smith has already seen the difference on the football field in practice.

"I was impressed with what he was able to do," Smith said. "We asked Mason to drop some weight. We don't play with big linebackers like that. We want strong linebackers that can run. Dane Fletcher also dropped some weight and he was able to do that. All our linebackers were able to do that."

NOTES: OG Carl Nicks was officially released Wednesday, having reached an injury settlement with the club. CB Kip Edwards became the third defensive back signed by the Bucs in three days. Edwards, 24, was undrafted in 2013 and had brief stints with the Bills, Browns and Vikings. ... CB Alterraun Verner missed Wednesday's practice because of a hamstring injury. That will just give more reps to CB Mike Jenkins, who was battling with Johnthan Banks for the other starting cornerback position.

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