Maybe there aren’t a lot of morning people on this Buccaneers roster.
The sparse crowd that showed up to Wednesday morning’s altered practice got to see the most physical and intense session of training camp.
“Oh yeah, you saw where we were at,” tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins said succinctly after practice.
The chippiness began about 45 minutes in during O-line vs. D-line drills. Linemen go through combinations of one-on-one, two-on-one and two-on-two reps and the first shoving match took place when defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was engaging with a pair of offensive linemen. Rookie Ali Marpet and third-year guard Patrick Omameh were in the mix, as players from both sides of the ball swarmed around to break things up.
The pushing, shoving and yelling that has been largely absent this training camp continued sporadically until practice wrapped up around 11:15 a.m. While no situation got out of hand Wednesday, the final 20-30 minutes provided some of the most entertaining moments of training camp.
Veteran defensive tackle Clinton McDonald and third-year offensive lineman Garrett Gilkey found themselves in the middle of a few scraps and the overall intensity ramped up to its highest level during 11-on-11 goal line scrimmages.
When running back Doug Martin broke through the left side behind a block from rookie left tackle Donovan Smith, the entire offensive unit erupted and rushed over to celebrate. Almost every other play to follow ended with a few players needing to be pulled apart, including McDonald making his way over 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage to get into the face of an offensive player.
“That’s what Coach [Lovie] Smith is trying to get out of us, especially as a defense,” McDonald said. “We have to be a tough-minded, tough-bodied and strong-willed defense. We can’t let guys score, we can’t let guys get first downs and we’ve got to take the ball away and get interceptions and score on defense. That’s our mentality and I think we’re kind of molding into where we need to be.”
Smith – as expected – downplayed the day’s intensity before highlighting the importance of getting tough reps in during practice.
“Yeah, a little chippy,” Smith said. “Not even enough to really talk about … didn’t know if you all would even notice it. Good physical play as much as anything. We have to be a good physical football team. We talked about running the ball offensively. Once you get down near the goal line we know what’s coming. The defensive side, of course, knows what the offense is doing so it’s good to see our players in a situation like that.”
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