Late Friday night, after a two-and-half-hour practice, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Bruce Arians was asked for his assessment of rookie safety D’Cota Dixon. Arians spoke on the subject for less than five seconds, but even with his economy of words he still said something big:

“Smart, tough. Really got a chance to make this team.”

Count that last sentence among the favorite words an undrafted NFL neophyte would want to hear from his head coach a week into training camp and five weeks before the big roster cuts. It is nowhere near a guarantee, of course, and the Buccaneers’ safety depth chart is still very much a work in progress, but it at least indicates that Dixon has caught the eyes of the coaching staff.

Actually, Dixon might not have heard what Arians had to say about him yet. He was signing autographs after practice when Arians met the press, and for a long time after that. Dixon was, in fact, the very last player to leave the sideline where fans were collecting signatures. But even if those encouraging words do eventually find their way to his ears, he won’t spend much time dwelling on them.

“I feel like I haven’t done anything, honestly,” said Dixon. “I feel like I haven’t proven anything. I’m still learning and I’m just trying to be a sponge right now. There are a lot of things that I think I’ve improved upon since I’ve been in camp, but there’s certainly much more to improve on, and obviously that never stops. I’m definitely not where I want to be, I can say that for sure.”

That said, Dixon can find some encouragement in what his body is telling him. Training camp is a grind and every player has to deal with fatigue, but Dixon has noticed that he has a bit more of it to contend with lately. The reason: Simply put, his reps are on the rise. That is obviously a very good thing for a player trying to fight his way up the depth chart.

“Steady, steady day by day,” said Dixon of his share of the reps. “They’re going up. My body’s feeling it, so I know they’re going up.”

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