When the Buccaneers drafted Robert Hainsey out of Notre Dame with their third-round pick (No. 95 overall) in this year’s NFL Draft, it was clear that they liked the versatility that he can bring to their offensive line.
However, there’s a difference between a guy who can play every position on the line and a guy who can play every position on the line at a high level. Primarily a right tackle with the Fighting Irish, the pre-draft process showed that Hainsey is willing to play on the inside of the line and early signs showed that he can do so with success.
At the Senior Bowl, Hainsey played center and sure enough, when Tampa Bay opened training camp on Sunday, he was taking reps at center. But it’s clear that there are plans to use him at different spots along the line, as he discussed with the local media after Tuesday’s practice:
“I think one thing is that I’m a pretty good size for all three [positions] and I can kick out to tackle. I know I can play tackle if I need to. Moving inside is obviously something I’ve done, just starting this past year and I’m enjoying that. Just physically I know I can do all three especially playing center, I’m learning all the positions, I have to know everyone’s job. So that’s been something I’ve been trying to learn a lot over summer so now if I do have to play any guard or tackle, then I’ll know exactly what I need to do.”
It certainly has to be an adjustment for a rookie to learn to play every role on the offensive line, but Hainsey made it clear that he’s working at it. As for making the move to center and getting his reps there, he had this to say about the challenges he’s facing so far:
“Right now, its staying dry for the quarterbacks, but I’d say for me the biggest difference is moving in and out of my stance and having a parallel stance. Especially coming from tackle, you’re used to a pretty large stagger whichever way you need to go, so that’s the biggest thing for me.”
It’s somewhat humorous to hear him mention staying dry for his quarterbacks, but it’s a very real thing for centers—especially those who are snapping the ball to Tom Brady. Just last year, Ryan Jensen said his first conversation with Brady was about, well, butt sweat. But beyond perspiration, there’s an adjustment to make technique-wise for a guy who played 836 snaps—without a penalty—at right tackle for Notre Dame in 2020.
Given the learning process and the possibility of him getting live reps at different positions, Hainsey will be an intriguing player to watch throughout camp and especially during the preseason. Keep an eye out for him when the Bucs open the exhibition schedule against the Cincinnati Bengals at Raymond James Stadium in a couple of weeks.