Bucs' Ali Marpet admits switching to center is a big 'mental test'

TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers center Ali Marpet went to snap the ball to quarterback Jameis Winston during Thursday's OTA practice, but realized Winston wasn't ready for it. He jerked his arm backward, but the ball was never snapped.

"I messed that one up," Marpet said, shrugging it off with a smile. "False starts happen. There is a lot of sound going on. I thought I heard Jameis give us the cadence and I didn't get it from him."

Right now in OTAs, those types of mistakes are to be expected. He's learning the nuances of a new position, after lining up at right guard the last two seasons. It's a switch he knew would come at some point because offensive line coach George Warhop told him so. He didn't know when it was coming, but he's always practiced snapping the ball while in Tampa.

He admitted center is a lot harder to play, not just because he's got to snap the ball off quickly as a defender is trying to blow up his gap, but due to the mental aspect of the position. That's what he's trying to master now before the pads come on and they can start hitting.

"It's being able to process a lot of information in a short amount of time and getting the information out, communicating it to everybody," Marpet said. "There are a lot of subtleties to it, you have to be more detailed. That's what's hard about it... It's hard to tell the physical aspect because we don't have the pads on. So right now, it's the mental test for me."

He also admitted that the new position will require more out of him in terms of studying. He and Winston have to always be in-sync in identifying and picking up blitzes, especially on third down.

"Even right now, there's a lot more film study that goes into it, just making sure the MIKE points and all that stuff is on-point," Marpet said. "I'm just going to have to stay on top of it over the summer, where normally at guard, I can probably take a break from the playbook."

He's been getting a lot of help from former starters Joe Hawley and Evan Smith, who are projected right now to be backups. And because Winston is more comfortable in the offense heading into Year 3, he's also been a big help.

"It takes a huge load off my shoulders, really," Marpet said. "Jameis does a phenomenal job of helping me out. From there, I usually get the rest of the offensive line on the same page. He's fixed things that I've messed up so that's been extremely helpful."

Overall, the Bucs are very encouraged by what they're seeing, which is why he's remained at center throughout the offseason and hasn't switched back to guard. Marpet is also pleased, not just with his performance but the cohesiveness of the O-line around him.

"What is this, the sixth OTAs?" Marpet said. "I feel a lot better in a short amount of time, which feels pretty good."