Under steamy training camp type of conditions the The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the field at One Buc Place for the first day of the team’s mandatory three-day mini-camp. The only Bucs player not in attendance was running back and track star Jeff Demps, whose absence was excused because the track and field season is still ongoing.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Driver Kasey Kahne was a visitor to the Buccaneers first day of mini-camp on Tuesday and observed practice sporting a Bucs shirt and shorts. Kahne, an admitted Seahawks fans, was impressed with the NFL game and the work that goes into it, even without pads.
Kahne was asked what is more difficult – being a NASCAR driver or an NFL football player?
“Well these guys do it everyday and we only drive once or twice a week,” Kahne said. “These guys work hard. It is crazy how hard they work and how much they get beat up. I have a lot of respect for what they do.”
The players donned helmets, jerseys and shorts for the non-contact drills under partly sunny skies and warm, humid conditions at the team’s headquarters. Tampa Bay had its full scouting staff, including the college scouts, present to watch practice and evaluate the players’ performances.
As practice was getting underway cornerback Darrelle Revis and Bucs head trainer Todd Toriscelli spent the first 40 minutes working on his rehab. Revis was seen doing some cone drills in addition to a basketball-style footwork drill where he moved back and forth laterally keeping his hips low and square and pushing his ability to make basic cuts. After the drills Toriscelli helped Revis stretch for a few minutes then Revis went and joined his cornerback teammates and watched the remaining practice from the sidelines. Revis walked with ease after the workout and did not appear to have any lingering effect from the workout. Bucs general manager Mark Dominik told the media on Monday he has little doubt that Revis will be in pads and ready to participate when training camp opens in late July.
Special teams coordinator Dave Wannstedt had his unit practice punting outside the hash marks near the sidelines before the unit practiced onside kick execution and onside kick recovery drills.
During the special teams period, the quarterbacks worked taking shotgun snaps and having another quarterback provide some pass rush and attempt to swat at the football to promote ball security.
Wide receivers coach John Garrett worked with his players’ hands as they released off the line of scrimmage. The receivers had to use their hands to push Garrett’s pads down and then weave around tackling dummies the defensive linemen have to, executing a swim move before breaking clear on the backside of the second dummy and catching a quick slant pass.
The only player to drop a pass in the first round was rookie Jheranie Boyd. Vincent Jackson looked sensational as he quickly maneuvered through the bags with great force, physicality and explosiveness. New wide receiver Kevin Olgetree barely touched the bags and didn’t look like he wanted to get too physical in the drill.
Speedster Chris Owusu was slower than expected during the drill, while new receiver Derek Hagan, who was Miami’s third-round pick in 2006, looked very quick through the bags. First-year player Terriun Crump did not look smooth, unlike veteran Tiquan Underwood who proceeded through the drill with ease.
The wide receivers then began to work with the quarterbacks on slant passes. The receivers did a good job of securing the ball high and tight after making the catch. After the first round of slant routes, quarterbacks coach John McNulty shouted, “Not good enough. Slants again. Too many balls on the ground. Let’s be perfect.”
The receivers went through the drill again with only Mike Williams and Eric Page not being able to corral the ball.
“You’re not looking at the ball, Mike,” McNulty said. “Gotta look it in.”
McNulty is louder than former QBs coach Ron Turner was, and is also much more vocal than offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, who seems content with McNulty directing the players while he calls the plays, analyzes and evaluates during practice.
The receivers then practiced going in motion. Jackson paired with Olgetree in the two-man drill, while Williams paired with Underwood. Hagan, who made a solid first impression, made a nice catch while Carlton Mitchell, who is a third-year player from South Florida, struggled catching the ball.
Not to knock former secondary coach Ron Cooper, but from our limited viewing it appears new DBs coach Tony Oden will be a nice upgrade to Schiano's staff. Oden is more hands-on and vocal than Cooper and seems to get the attention of his cornerbacks. Oden is much like Schiano – extremely detail-oriented.
Safeties coach Jeff Hafley appears to be more comfortable than last season, and worked his safeties hard on Tuesday in a number of drills. Hafley was very vocal with his players, quick to point out mistakes but to also offer praise. One player in particular that seems to be having a terrific offseason in safety Keith Tandy. Since OTAs have begun, Tandy seems to make a play every single practice. Late on Tuesday, in the two-minute drill, Tandy was able to make a diving pass breakup, just getting his fingers on the ball enough to deflect it to the turf. In individual drills Tandy is also very fluid in his back pedal, redirect, and breaking on the ball. Tandy's time at cornerback certainly has helped his develop a quiet smoothness in his technique. Tandy is a player to watch very closely in training camp.
During the 11-on-11 period, second-year running back Michael Smith was used as the third-down back with the starters, which essentially made him the second-string running back on Tuesday. Luke Stocker teamed with Tom Crabtree to form a two-tight end set, while it was Olgetree who got reps as the third receiver in a three-wide receiver set alongside Jackson and Williams.
Starter Josh Freeman struggled with accuracy throughout Tuesday’s practice and could not connect with Stocker at all on several occasions, including a red zone pass where the 6-foot-5 tight end was wide open and overthrown.
Freeman did have a nice, deep touchdown pass early in practice to Jackson, who jumped over safety Ahmad Black for the ball at the 20-yard line and dashed into the end zone. Once he score the touchdown, Jackson pressed buttons on the football, as if it was a cell phone, and then held it up to his ear and said, “Hello? Yeah, we in here!” referring to the end zone.
After practice Freeman talked about how this offseason has gone thus far.
“The comfort levels are just so much higher and I speak for the entire offense,” Freeman said. “Mike (Williams), Vincent (Jackson), Doug (Martin), the entire offensive line. It's the communication, going in on each down, it's all functioning on a higher level. And that comes with experience. I think that this offseason the guys put in a lot of work. Everybody all around making sure that by the time we get to the season there are no more of those plays of indecision. Everybody is going to be on the same page. We're not going to hinder ourselves.”
Rookie quarterback Mike Glennon made some nice underneath and intermediate throws, but struggled with deep passes on Tuesday. He found David Douglas, who does a nice job of getting open, on a skinny post pattern that covered about 20 yards.
Glennon even showed off some mobility by taking off and scrambling for close to 10 yards off right tackle when he had trouble finding any open receivers. As nimble as Glennon was, he doesn’t have very good speed like running back Matt Brown has.
Brown, who stands just 5-foot-5, and weighs 165 pounds, has very quick feet and a nice burst once he gets through the line of scrimmage. While Smith, Brown and Doug Martin all saw plenty of action on Tuesday, the reps were few and far between for backup running back Brian Leonard.
The Bucs’ starting offensive line on Tuesday featured Donald Penn at left tackle, Jamon Meredith at left guard, Jeremy Zuttah at center, Ted Larsen at right guard and Demar Dotson at right tackle. Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph were not cleared to practice in team situations and will be held out of team drills until training camp.
The second-string offensive line had Mike Remmers at left tackle, rookie Jace Daniels at left guard, Cody Wallace at center, rookie Adam Smith at right guard and newcomer Gabe Carimi at right tackle.
The third-string O-line consisted of Jason Weaver at left tackle, Jeremy Lewis at left guard, Daniels at center, Smith at right guard and Brian Schwab at right tackle.
Freeman’s struggles continued in the final 11-on-11 period, in which the offense trailed by a touchdown with just over 1:00 remaining and being approximately 70 yards away from the end zone. Freeman was sacked on first down by both Aaron Morgan and Da’Quan Bowers, as he held onto the ball and looked a bit indecisive. Tampa Bay’s front four consisted of Morgan at right end in place of Adrian Clayborn, defensive tackles Gary Gibson and rookie William Gholston, and Bowers at left end.
An incompletion to Stocker on second down led to a Freeman-to-Smith connection on a screen pass on third down that picked up a first down. But the drive stalled near midfield as time expired and the first-team defense prevailed. It was interesting to note that Smith was in at running back rather than Martin during the final 11-on-11 period.
Tampa Bay’s first-team defense in the their base 4-3 defense was the same as it has been throughout the offseason, with Da’Quan Bowers at left end, Gary Gibson and Gerald McCoy at tackle, and Daniel Te’o-Nesheim playing right defensive end. The linebacking unit consisted of Lavonte David at weakside linebacker, Mason Foster in the middle and Dekoda Watson playing the strongside. The back four had Leonard Johnson and Eric Wright at cornerback with Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson playing safety.
The second-string dime defense consisted of rookie Steven Means at right end with Daniel Te’o-Nesheim at left end with Markus White and Gholston at defensive tackle. Mason Foster was the lone linebacker in on defense, which consisted of safeties Keith Tandy, Cody Grimm and Sean Baker, and cornerbacks Danny Gorrer, Myron Lewis and rookie Rashaan Melvin.
After practice Kahne and Freeman spent 15 minutes talking and tossing a football back and forth then following coach Greg Schiano’s post-practice press conference, Daytona Speedway President Joey Chitwood presented Schiano with a NASCAR racing helmet with the Buccaneers logo that was signed by all of the Sprint Cup drivers. Schiano thanked Kahne and Chitwood and said he thinks both Daytona and the Buccaneers are two great Florida traditions. Schiano also mentioned he would be attending the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona in July. Kahne was in Tampa to promote the July NASCAR race at Daytona.
The Buccaneers will be back on the practice field on Wednesday and Thursday as they conclude the madatory mini-camp.– Scott Reynolds and Mark Cook contributed to this report
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