BUCS KICK OFF MANDATORY CAMP WITHOUT GRIESE, SEARS Tampa Bay held its first mandatory mini-camp practice at One Buc Place Tuesday.
Although attendance is required at mandatory mini-camps in the NFL, the Bucs were missing two players – quarterback Brian Griese and left guard Arron Sears.
Griese, who has not participated in any organized team activities this offseason, has been in Denver with his pregnant wife and is not believed to be part of Tampa Bay's future plans at quarterback, where the Bucs have four signal callers – Luke McCown, Byron Leftwich, Josh Johnson and Josh Freeman.
The Bucs excused Sears' absence, but not Griese's, which means the quarterback could be fined as much as $8,000 by the time the team's mandatory mini-camp concludes.
Sears, a 2007 second-round draft pick, has missed all offseason workouts since the team's initial workout in April. He is believed to be suffering from some mental issues and the team has expressed concern about him.
In the meantime, second-year G Jeremy Zuttah is starting at left guard in place of Sears.
“He has been in the voluntary (OTAs),” Morris said of Zuttah starting at left guard. “I go out there every day and I see at (left) guard and it’s Jeremy Zuttah. That’s the guy that is starting for us right now. That’s the guy in that role. That’s his job to go out and assume and take.”
When asked if Sears would be ready to go for training camp, Morris didn't seem sure.
“I can’t answer that question being that it’s a private matter,” Morris said. “I’m just hopeful and I’m concerned.”
In addition to those two absences, the Bucs were without several injured players, including running back Cadillac Williams (knee), wide receiver Sammie Stroughter (hamstring), defensive end Stylez G. White (motorcycle accident/shoulder), defensive lineman Greg Peterson (knee), linebacker Matt McCoy (calf), fullback B.J. Askew (illness) and defensive back C.J. Byrd (undisclosed).
TUESDAY AFTERNOON PRACTICE CANCELLED After conducting a two-hour mandatory mini-camp practice at One Buc Place on Tuesday, the Buccaneers cancelled their afternoon practice due to inclement weather.
The Bucs are scheduled to hold two practices on Wednesday. Head coach Raheem Morris plans to adjust Tampa Bay's practice schedule by starting and ending the practices earlier in an effort to avoid the rain and get work in.
“As you guys know it rains almost every day during the afternoon in training camp,” said Morris. “We’ve got to be ready to deal with it. We have to be able to cancel a practice and push up the next day so we can get two practices in before that 3:00 p.m. rain starts. Tomorrow I’m going to try that format. Another learning curve for the new coach.”
Wednesday's practices will be followed by a team function that will be held at an undisclosed location on Thursday.
ADAMS LEAVES PRACTICE EARLY Buccaneers defensive end Gaines Adams left practice slightly early after incurring a minor injury.
"I just rolled up on my foot, but it was nothing major," said Adams. "It was more precautionary than anything else."
Adams said that he would be able to practice in the remainder of mini-camp practices.
MCCOY HELD OUT WITH TORN FOOT MUSCLE Bucs linebacker Matt McCoy has a torn plantaris muscle is in the foot and calf. McCoy said the injury was not significant and emphasized that not practicing was just a precaution to make sure he is ready for training camp.
"A torn plantaris muscle it is not a big deal," said McCoy. "They are keeping me out so I'll be ready for camp."
CROWELL ON THE MEND Newcomer Angelo Crowell, who is competing for the right to start at the strongside linebacker position, suffered a setback in his rehab from a knee injury that required surgery last September, but he appears to be on the mend again, evidenced by the fact that he was participating in Tuesday's mandatory mini-camp action.
"His injury is getting better," Bucs defensive coordinator Jim Bates said of Crowell. "Last week was by far his best week of the offseason. Hopefully by the time we go to training camp he'll be full speed because he's close now."
As far as which player is ahead in the competition, Bates stressed that Crowell, Quincy Black and Geno Hayes were in a real battle that probably wouldn't be decided until preseason.
"It's a wide open battle right now," said Bates. "Geno Hayes has been doing a great job. Several of the other linebackers have looked good. Of course, we aren't in pads. It will all sort itself out, but we're going to have a great battle there."
FREEMAN WORKING TOWARDS MORE REPS Bucs rookie quarterback Josh Freeman, who was the team's first-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, said he is becoming more comfortable in Jeff Jagodzinski's offense and that the action isn't as fast and as furious as it was when the OTAs (organized team activities) began in May.
"It's definitely starting to slow down," Freeman said. "It's definitely one thing when you are out there and they are throwing new plays at you and you are learning them five minutes before you go out there. Your head is just spinning. I'm starting to get a grasp for these concepts. Every play has a concept. You want to go here, here or here, check down or run. I'm starting to understand exactly the ebb and flow of the game and how to get the ball out on time and into somebody's hands that can work with it."
Freeman indicated that last Thursday's practice was the highlight so far for his fledgling NFL career. Veteran Byron Leftwich suffered a tweaked groin muscle that forced him to sit for most of the OTA and Freeman moved into Leftwich's role and took snaps with the first- and second-string rather than the third-string offense.
"I love getting reps. I'm a competitive guy," Freeman said. "I like going out there and being with the vets – the guys that go out and do it on Sundays. It was definitely good to go out and get some reps with the O-line, the running backs and do what I do.
"I'm starting to see that week in and week out they are putting a little more on my plate. I definitely am feeling more and more comfortable with the offense and I think that's what merits the extra reps."
Freeman said he isn't concerned that fellow first-round quarterbacks Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez are being groomed to become rookie starters in 2009 in Detroit and New York, respectively. Freeman knows that his time will come whether it is this year or not.
"I definitely want to go out and win the starting job, but it's about winning football games," Freeman said. "If I'm not the best guy for the job, I'm going to continue to work until I become that guy. Right now, I'm just worried more about what I can do now about bettering my play."
Bucs head coach Raheem Morris has been pleased with the rookie signal caller's progress thus far.
“He told you guys the first day that he wants to be the very best,” Morris said. “Josh Freeman, in his mind, he’s going to go out and compete and be the very best and try to win this job. We’re not going to hold him back. That’s what he’s going to do. He’s got to go out and compete. It’s not where I want him, it’s where he is right now. It’s not what I’m going to do for him, it’s what he’s going to do for himself. He’s going out and doing it every day. He’s competing his butt off. I’m proud of him.”
COX RETURNS TO PRACTICE Tampa Bay cornerback Torrie Cox, a seventh-year veteran, returned to the practice field for the first time since he was injured in practice on May 21 when he was struck in the face by Aqib Talib's helmet after he was attempting to break up a fight between Talib and left tackle Donald Penn. Cox, who has some small scars across the bridge of his nose and above his left eye from the injury, did not want to discuss the incident.
"That's in the past," Cox said. "I prefer not to talk about it. It is what it is and it's over. We've all moved on. It's all about football. I've gotten my injury for the year I hope! I'm just happy to be back out here."
Cox has certainly battled his share of injuries. Two years ago, Cox tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and was placed on injured reserve on October 31 after seeing action in four games. After rehabbing that injury all offseason, Cox tore his left ACL again on the first day of training camp in 2008 and was placed on injured reserve once again.
Cox said the reason he hasn't been practicing wasn't related to the injuries from Talib's helmet-swinging incident.
"It wasn't (my face)," Cox said. "It was my knee. We've just been managing it and making sure my knee is 100 percent. It's OTAs and I just didn't want to go out there and do something stupid. I want to be ready for training camp."
Cox had a sensational practice on Tuesday, especially during the 7-on-7 period where he broke up three passes and almost came away with interceptions on back-to-back plays.
"We just watched the 7-on-7s and he got three balls out," said Bucs defensive coordinator Jim Bates. "He did some really good things for just coming back. That would be huge if he could really come on. The cornerback position is really wide open for competition in terms of depth."
When asked about his performance, Cox said he wanted to give the coaches a little something to look at during the break.
"It's always great to be out there to compete," Cox said. "I've been out of practice the last couple weeks. The trainers and the coaches have been doing a great job of just trying to make sure that I am healthy. Today felt good just getting out there and competing."
WHITE'S OFFSEASON HAS BEEN INJURY-PLAGUED Bucs defensive end Stylez G. White was a bystander today at One Buccaneer Place as he continues to recover from a motorcycle accident he suffered two weeks ago. White has obvious road burns on his legs and knees and his left knee is still wrapped in a bandage. White looked on while his teammates practiced and did spend a little one-on-one time with strength and conditioning coach Kurt Shultz inside the weight room.
"The recovery is coming along well. I'm a little scuffed up but I will be ready for training camp," White said. "I had a little accident. Stuff happens … more often on bikes than on cars, though."
White revealed that he had offseason shoulder surgery on his right shoulder this offseason and his rehab from that, coupled with his motorcycle accident injuries have kept him off the field for most of the offseason program.
"I have been off the field for a little while with the shoulder surgery and the accident," White said. "I feel like I'm going in slow motion right now. I just had my shoulder scoped and cleaned out. Then I had a little setback by rolling on the pavement. It hasn't been my best offseason."
Backup Louis Holmes has been getting extra work and is currently running second string at right end behind Gaines Adams during White's absence.
ARRINGTON FINE AFTER BEING CARTED OFF LAST WEEK The highlight from last Thursday's OTA was a 60-yard bomb from rookie quarterback Josh Freeman to wide receiver Pat Carter. Cornerback Kyle Arrington was covering Carter on the play and jumped up to try to make a play on the ball. As a result, both Arrington and Carter got tangled up and came crashing to the ground. Carter hauled in the pass down to the 1-yard line and Arrington appeared to hurt his left knee on the play.
But what really happened was Arrington began suffering the effects of dehydration and had to get carted from the field.
"I cramped up," Arrington said. "It was just dehydration. The smart thing would have been to tell the coaches that I needed a breather, but we're trying to be tough out here and we always want to get as many reps as we can. Sometimes it can lead to your demise, though.
"We got tangled up and that's what did it. After Freeman's bomb, I was exhausted and started to cramp up. Now I know to stay hydrated and get a breather more often."
FAINE TWEETS THAT HE'S FEELING ILL Bucs center Jeff Faine has officially joined the Twitter phenomenon. Faine has a Twitter page and actually broke some minor news about himself last night, revealing that he was feeling ill.
"I like Twitter. It's fun," Faine said. "A lot of my friends follow me on there. It's cool. I haven't been feeling too well this week – pretty sick, actually – and was joking that I may have the swine flu."
Yet despite not feeling well, Faine was out practicing today in 94-degree heat, taking all the reps with the starting offense.
"I'm a little under the weather today just trying to sweat it out of me," Faine said.
BUCS WELCOME FORMER FACE TO ONE BUC PLACE Tampa Bay had a special guest at Tuesday's mandatory mini-camp practice at One Buc Place.
Bucs head coach Raheem Morris welcomed former Bucs wide receiver Keenan McCardell, who played for Tampa Bay from 2002-03.
McCardell, 39, caught 883 passes for 11,373 yards and 63 touchdowns while playing for Washington, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay and San Diego.
After 17 seasons in the NFL, McCardell said he is considering the idea of embarking on a coaching career, which led to Morris inviting the Houston native to One Buc Place.
"Rah and I were playing at Derrick Brooks' golf tournament, and I kind of mentioned to him that I was thinking about getting in it, and he told me to come out and see what I think o fit," said McCardell. "It's been fun. I'm really enjoying it."
Morris was pleased that McCardell took him up on his offer.
“Man, that’s awesome when you bring back those guys, those kind of winning attitudes,” Morris said. “When Keenan talks, my wide receivers listen. He’s caught a lot of balls in this league. When you talk about a free agent guy that has made himself into a franchise guy, those guys listen. When you get a chance to bring a guy like that back and help him possibly develop into a coach one day … when he’s thinking about doing it and he’s got a little bit of interest and you can put that little bug into him – that fires me up. That’s a part of the ‘giving back’ that I talked about that helped me through the internships and everything like that.”
McCardell's tenure in Tampa Bay didn't end the way he had hoped. In 2004, McCardell held out for a new contract with two years remaining on his deal. In October of that season, former Bucs general manager Bruce Allen and head coach Jon Gruden traded McCardell to San Diego in exchange for a third- and fifth-round draft pick.
The Chargers eventually signed McCardell to a new contract, and he played there for three seasons before joining Washington for his final season in the NFL.
Despite how things ended for him in Tampa Bay, McCardell said he understands the business side of the NFL and was happy to return to Tampa.
"I'm really proud," McCardell said of winning Super Bowl XXXVII in Tampa Bay. "Seeing my picture down the hall, it's like, ‘Wow, you leave on bad terms but you are still in this building.' I see that that didn't really matter, and it didn't really matter to me. It just goes to show you how good that team really was.
"It probably wouldn't have happened under the previous regime, but with a new regime it happened. Rah really understood what I brought. I'm not saying Jon [Gruden] didn't. I have no ill will toward Jon at all. I still say that he's one of the best coaches I was ever around. It was respectful and it was a blessing to me. Anytime you go somewhere and win a Super Bowl the people are doing something right and the organization is doing something right. It was strictly business."
QUOTE OF THE DAY Bucs head coach Raheem Morris on what he said when he recently called out defensive end Stylez G. White in the team meeting room:
“We have no secrets amongst teammates. We are one big family,” said Morris. “I will call you out in that team room. We hold nothing back as far as the coaching staff, as far as security, as far as players. We have to hold everybody accountable. We have to hold the media accountable, too. If we want to be a great team we have to have a great media and a great everything. I’m counting on you guys (smiling). You guys are the weak link right now.”