BRADENTON – Here were some observations from the first day of Tampa Bay’s unofficial three-day mini-camp, which was held at the IMG Performance Institute in Bradenton, Fla., which is just south of Tampa. Over 50 Buccaneers were in attendance at the workout on Tuesday, which was organized by linebacker Tyrone McKenzie, quarterback Josh Freeman, guard Davin Joseph and wide receiver Maurice Stovall.PENN CAN’T WAIT TO WORK WITH CLAYBORN
Bucs left tackle Donald Penn, who looked slimmer than he did two years ago when he ballooned to 370 pounds, but perhaps not as trim as he did last year entering training camp with a new contract extension, got to meet the player he will be facing on a daily basis come training and probably for the next five years at least in defensive end Adrian Clayborn, Tampa Bay’s first-round pick in 2011.
“I told him congratulations, man,” Penn said. “He had a great honor of being picked in the first round. A lot of people don’t get that opportunity. The first thing he asked me was, ‘Who is the left tackle?’ I told him, ‘You are looking at him. Don’t worry. I’ll get you right. We’ll have enough time in training camp and I’m going to get you right and we’re going to battle.”
Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was working closely with Clayborn, who blew off the NFLPA rookie symposium, which was also being held at the IMG Performance Institute, to attend the mini-camp along with Tampa Bay’s 2011 third-round pick, linebacker Mason Foster.
Penn, who has been working out in his home state of California this offseason, said that the Florida heat and humidity was stifling, but that he was ready to get back to football drills after spending months doing other forms of conditioning.
“It was my first time in the heat,” Penn said. “But it was a great time seeing the guys and the biggest thing we wanted to have done is get everybody together, and that’s what we did. It was good seeing everybody’s faces.
“I can’t speak for everybody else, but that was my first time getting in a three-point stance since our last game. It felt pretty good to do that and get that knee bend and get used to that football stuff. Lifting weights and running is different from being in a football stance and in football shape. We looked pretty good getting that done.”FREEMAN HAS MET WITH CAROLINA’S NEWTON
Last year at the urging of Bucs offensive coordinator Greg Olson, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees worked with Tampa Bay quarterback and NFC South rival Josh Freeman because Olson was Brees’ quarterbacks coach at Purdue. This year, it was Freeman’s turn to help a fellow quarterback from the division as he spent a day working with Carolina rookie signal caller Cam Newton, who was the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
“When I came out here and worked out with him, Warren Moon was down here before his pro day,” Freeman said. “I got a day in with him to size him up and try to give him some advice and whatnot. I would just say that he is a gifted, gifted athlete. As far as him being a quarterback, I know this offseason has to be tough on him but I know they have enough leaders over there in their locker room that they are going to rally around him. Hopefully they are not too good [of leaders], though!”
After starting nine games in 2009 as a rookie, Freeman was able to improve at a rapid rate and threw 25 touchdowns and only six interceptions last year as the Buccaneers surprised the league with a 10-6 campaign, falling just short of the postseason. Freeman didn’t reveal too much of what advice he gave Newton, but did marvel at the athleticism the 6-foot-5, 248-pound Auburn product, whose build resembles that of the 6-foot-5, 255-pound Buccaneer QB.
“He’s a little faster than me and he definitely does more on the ground than me,” Freeman said. “As far as being a pocket passer, we’re kind of similar. We’re just different kinds of athletes. We have similar builds, but he’s just a different kind of athlete.”BENN WAY AHEAD OF REHAB SCHEDULE
Just when he was beginning to make an impact in the receiving game, Tampa Bay wideout Arrelious Benn’s rookie season came to an abrupt end due to a torn ACL in the second-to-last game of the season in the Bucs’ win against Seattle. A normal ACL tear can take between 8-12 months to rehab. Benn has made remarkable progress in just seven months and even though he could have taken part in Tampa Bay’s unofficial workout at the IMG Performance Institute on Tuesday, he decided to take a cautious approach and watch from the sidelines while taking mental reps.
“I’m young and I take real good care of my body,” Benn said. “For me to recover the way I am I put the effort in to do a little bit extra on top of what my trainers and everybody else wants me to do.
“I’m past where I should be. I’m where I want to be. I can’t be any better than where I am now. I definitely envision me being full strength and full tilt for training camp. I’m able to cut a little bit and get out there and run a little bit. I want to take it easy. It’s still early. I feel good, but things in my knee still need to heal. I don’t want to come out here and be stupid or do anything that will jeopardize my season.”
Benn, who has attended some of Freeman’s passing camp workouts at the University of South Florida practice fields this offseason, said that watching teammates like Mike Williams, Sammie Stroughter, Preston Parker and Maurice Stovall catch passes was beneficial.
“It’s just refreshing my memory with the plays and the routes,” Benn said. “And just being with the guys. If we’re all at the same point, it’s going to take us far. For us to have that bond and being able to stick together, it’s going to take us further when it comes to football.” WINSLOW PASSES ON OFFSEASON SURGERY
Tampa Bay tight end Kellen Winslow has had six surgeries on his troubled knee throughout his career, including going under the knife last offseason. Most of the recent surgeries have been to clean out scar tissue and some loose bodies within the knee, which was injured after his rookie season in Cleveland. But after playing in all 16 games over his two past seasons in Tampa Bay, Winslow is at the point where he knows how to manage his knee, when to work it and when to rest it.
“Surgery is not going to help me anymore,” Winslow said. “It’s just maintenance from now on and keeping my knee strong. That’s the reason for no surgery this past year. It just doesn’t matter anymore. It’s just keeping it strong and how much will you have.”UPDATED INJURY REPORT
Arrelious Benn wasn’t the only rehabbing Buccaneer to show up for the unofficial mini-camp as an observer. Defensive end Brandon Gilbeaux (knee), defensive tackles Brian Price (pelvis) and Gerald McCoy (biceps), safety Cody Grimm (broken leg), linebacker Quincy Black (broken arm), guard Davin Joseph (broken foot) and cornerback Aqib Talib (hip tendon tear) and running back Kareem Huggins (knee) all ended the 2010 season on injured reserve. McCoy, Joseph, Black and Talib were fully participating in the mini-camp and it appeared as if Grimm was somewhat limited.
Benn, Gilbeaux, Price and Huggins were sidelined although none of them were using crutches or limping. In fact, Huggins was working one-on-one with a trainer on a far field and doing high knee exercises. SOME BIG NAME BUCS NOT IN ATTENDANCE
Keep in mind that this is a voluntary, unofficial mini-camp that the players are holding in Bradenton at the IMG Performance Institute, but we would be remiss if we did not pass along the names of some notable Buccaneers not in attendance on Tuesday. Starting cornerback Ronde Barber and starting weakside linebacker Geno Hayes were not present, as was starting middle linebacker Barrett Ruud, who is slated for unrestricted free agency.
On offense, running backs LeGarrette Blount and Cadillac Williams, who will be an unrestricted free agent this year, were absent on Tuesday, as was wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe, who the team hopes can emerge as the third wide receiver. Rookie defensive end Da’Quan Bowers and rookie tight ends Luke Stocker and Daniel Hardy were also not in attendance on the first day of the mini-camp.Charlie Campbell contributed to this report.
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