Lorig finds his niche as Bucs' fullback

Erik Lorig has changed positions so often during his football career he might be confused for a politician.

Now, it’s the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ running game to which the third-year pro out of Stanford has been elected to serve, the latest shift in a multifaceted football platform that includes stops on both sides of the ball at every level of play.

Lorig has settled nicely into a fullback role that has him paving pathways for running back Doug Martin and hauling in passes from quarterback Josh Freeman.

Heading into Sunday’s game at Carolina, Lorig has a career-high nine catches. Though he does not have a carry to his credit, Lorig has proven a stealth part of the offense in his first full year at his latest position.

“He has been a weapon and he’s played some really good football,” Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. “He’s still learning the position right now but he’s getting a better feel each week.”

Recruited as a two-way player out of Palos Verdes Peninsula High School in Rolling Hills, Calif., Lorig started his college career as a tight end. After two productive seasons, a new coaching staff at Stanford switched the 6-foot-4, 250-pounder to the defensive line. Drafted by Tampa Bay in the seventh round in 2010 as a defensive lineman, Lorig was switched back to offense midway through his rookie season.

Mostly a special teams player his first couple of years, Lorig worked his way into what is proving to be a vital role for an offense that is among the best in the league right now. First and foremost on his list of responsibilities is helping open holes for Martin, who rushed for a franchise-record 251 yards in a Nov.?4 victory at Oakland and is tied for fourth in the league with 862 yards rushing.

“Erik is a nice big body in there and does a great job of lead blocking to make sure those guys stay out of the backfield,” Martin said. “And he does a good job of staying on blocks.”

Playing defense has proved a blessing for Lorig, who can analyze things from a defensive perspective before executing what he’s asked to do on offense.

“Schematically, when I was transitioning my rookie year, that was a huge help,” Lorig said. “I could see the game from both ways and that helped me get ahead of the curve. In the transition, there are definitely times where just sensing what the defense is doing before the snap (helps), or noticing some alignments that I do remember from when I was playing defense.”

It’s not just his time on defense that aided Lorig in his new role.

That he put in time as a tight end helps with route running and catching when his number is called in the passing game. Lorig had four catches in the season-opening victory against Carolina, and his first career touchdown came in the nationally televised game against Minnesota.

“To be able to catch the ball and be productive after catching a ball, that is an additional weapon,” Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said. “It’s what we’ve talked about in the past, that sometimes you have somebody that was a primary focus or a primary threat taken away, it’s going to open up some other areas … whether that is the tight end or certainly the fullback position.

“So we are excited about where he is at, and he is certainly one of those players doing better and better in this offense.”

For Lorig, it’s all about making contributions beyond being a one-dimensional blocking back as he evolves into a role he might finally stick with.

“It’s always been a part of my personal vision to be more than just a blocker on offense,” he said. “I’m always trying to expand my responsibilities and get more pressure put on me, and I just asked for those things.

“Routes, catching balls – I like it all.”

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