BRADENTON – Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman and over 50 of his Tampa Bay teammates took the field for the first of three days worth of a two-a-day mini-camp schedule at the IMG Performance Institute in Bradenton, Fla. just south of Tampa on Tuesday.
Among the notables in attendance were cornerback Aqib Talib, who is currently facing an indictment for aggravated assault charges in Texas, unrestricted free agent offensive linemen Davin Joseph and Jeremy Trueblood, first-round draft pick defensive end Adrian Clayborn and third-round pick linebacker Mason Foster. Even former Tampa Bay wide receiver Michael Clayton, the team’s first-round pick in 2004, worked out with the Buccaneers although he was released during training camp and signed midseason with the New York Giants.
The Bucs’ franchise quarterback, who was instrumental in the team’s surprising 10-6 record in 2010, mentioned several players that helped him organize this week’s mini-camp.
“A lot of guys – Davin Joseph and I know Tyrone McKenzie was real instrumental on the defensive side with Barrett Ruud not coming and wondering about his contract, Tyrone really stepped up and did a lot in organizing this,” Freeman said. “Maurice Stovall and Jeff Faine, our player representative, they helped get the word out through e-mail because they have everybody’s e-mail. Really a lot of guys stepped up. We sent out an initial e-mail and we told everybody to spread the word and everybody got it.
“We had a really great turnout. I don’t know the exact number, but a couple guys called and said, ‘Hey, I’m not going to be there until Wednesday’ because of different issues they have going on.”
Aside from Ruud not being in attendance, other notable Bucs who were absent include: cornerback Ronde Barber, linebacker Geno Hayes, wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe, guard Brandon Carter, second-round pick defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, fourth-round pick tight end Luke Stocker and seventh-round pick tight end Daniel Hardy.
Several Bucs players who are rehabbing injuries were in attendance, including safety Cody Grimm (broken leg), running back Kareem Huggins (knee), wide receiver Arrelious Benn (knee) and defensive tackle Brian Price (pelvis). Only Grimm participated in the drills and Price told PewterReport.com that he only began running a week or so ago. It is PewterReport.com’s opinion based on Price’s vagueness when it came to his rehab that he could be a candidate to start the season on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list.
Freeman was encouraged by the attendance at the voluntary, unofficial team mini-camp, which consisted of taping, stretching, on-field work and film study in the classroom. Without the aid of the Bucs coaches due to the NFL lockout, Freeman got assistance from former Florida State and Carolina quarterback Chris Weinke and some of the IMG coaches.
“We did fundamental periods where each group is split up and we got together with the receivers and the running backs and threw some routes,” Freeman said. “The afternoon is going to be some team periods and some seven-on-seven periods.
“As far as the fundamental drills, it’s the same. We do about the same stuff. Obviously, we talk about different plays and different schemes during the season, but it’s about the same just as far as fundamentals. But once you get into these film rooms and getting on the boards, it will be a little different without the coaches. But luckily, we have a strong nucleus as far as leaders, guys who know our system inside and out and will be able to go relay what we are going to install later.
“It’s very important because with the lockout I’ve been working with these receivers, but we haven’t done it with the whole team. There are some linemen, but they really just go and lift on their own. There’s really not a whole lot they can do unless we are all running plays and talking schemes.”
Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy told PewterReport.com earlier in the offseason that he wanted to become a leader this year and on Tuesday he was practicing what he has been preaching. McCoy took Clayborn, who skipped the NFLPA’s rookie symposium to work with the Buccaneers, under his wing and spent the majority of the morning session working closely with the player whom will likely be the opening day starter at right defensive end.
Freeman said that the loss of the rookie mini-camp and the OTAs due to the NFL lockout will hurt Clayborn and the other rookies across the league.
“It’s going to be tough on them,” Freeman said. “Obviously, the drafted rookies it’s going to be tough because they don’t get the OTAs or the rookie minicamps, which is very valuable time. Free agents, man, it’s going to be tough on those guys because they don’t have a lot of time to make a big statement to these coaches.
“With the young receiving corps, we’ve been getting a lot of work in. I know Gerald has been getting the D-line together out in California and doing a lot of the same stuff. Really, we’ve got a lot of one-year guys so they know the system, there’s not a whole lot of teaching going on. It’s just a matter of getting up, working out and staying ready.”
Although he had a lot of help when it came to organizing the three-day mini-camp at IMG, which concludes on Thursday, Freeman understands the role of the quarterback and the clout he has in ensuring that the turnout is as high as possible.
“For sure, it’s the quarterback’s job on the team and I mean they voted me captain last year,” Freeman said. “I take a lot of pride in being a leader on this team and getting together is something you have to do. It’s a lot, just catching up to guys. They say they’ll get back to you but they don’t get back to you and you’ve got to call them up. That happens, but I’m just really happy with guys getting here and working out and being here. I’m really happy with the attendance.
“It just says we have a hungry team and going out and winning football games next year is important to all our guys. I know obviously there were a couple guys, their contract situation they don't really know so their agents advised them to kind of sit it out. As far as I’ve seen, dude, we have a lot of passionate dudes who made time in their schedule to get out here and do something like this.”
When asked what would happen if the lockout were to end today, Freeman and the Bucs sound prepared for the start of football season, especially after the initial day of the team’s first full-team mini-camp of the offseason.
“If [the lockout] ends today, obviously they are going to have their free agency period,” Freeman said. “I feel like we’re right on schedule and we’d probably finish up this mini-camp and then we would go in there and maybe do what the coaches wanted to do and maybe get a mini-camp in at One Buc. We would go back and just start off as usual.”
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