Tampa Bay held its organized team activity at Raymond James Stadium on Thursday morning.
The Bucs only have six OTAs remaining, and each of them will be held in June.
This wasn't the first time Bucs head coach Jon Gruden has held one of the team's OTAs at Ray-Jay. He's done it in previous seasons with a purpose in mind.
"We have new players. Every year this roster changes dramatically in this league," said Gruden. "Some of these guys have played in the NFL, but have never played in this stadium. I just think it's part of the offseason program to get your players familiar with their new teammates, coaches and plays, but also their surroundings."
Tampa Bay is scheduled to report to training camp on July 25.
SEVERAL BUCS PLAYERS MIA Organized team activities are voluntary, but it's still worth noting player absences.
Several players were missing from Thursday's workout, including wide receiver Joey Galloway, quarterback Chris Simms, running back Earnest Graham, defensive tackle Ryan Sims, guard Arron Sears, tackle Luke Petitgout, rookie center Jeremy Zuttah, rookie running back Cory Boyd and wide receiver Charles Spiller.
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said he hopes to get some of the players that are recovering from injuries they sustained last season back soon.
"We had a lot of guys that were hurt last year. They didn't rest and they were hurt," said Gruden. "You saw Cato June today and you saw Arron Sears not practice. Joey Galloway, Ike Hilliard, Maurice Stovall, Luke Petitgout and Cadillac Williams – these guys still are not ready to roll. They're outstanding players. We're monitoring their progress and we're staying after them the best we can and they've done a great job rehabbing. Those are key members we need to get back."
Sears participated in Tampa Bay's first three OTAs, but hasn't since. Gruden said he hoped Sears would be ready to participate in Tampa Bay's next set of OTAs, which are scheduled for the first week of June.
"His whole body is tweaked," Gruden said when asked what specifically was wrong with Sears. "I'm so tired of talking about our offensive linemen. We talk more about our linemen here than we do our quarterbacks. I don't really want to talk about them anymore."
TAMPA BAY INTERSTED IN WR MOULDS, OTHERS With Joey Galloway, Ike Hilliard and Maurice Stovall not completely healthy at this point in the offseason, the Buccaneers are looking at bringing in some more receivers before they report to training camp on July 25.
The Bucs worked out three veteran receivers – Eric Moulds, Eddie Kennison and Bryan Gilmore – on Monday.
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden has been pleased with a number of his receivers, including Paris Warren, who is returning from a dislocated ankle he suffered in Tampa Bay's preseason finale in 2007. But Gruden indicated that the Bucs were looking at more receivers while talking about Warren on Thursday.
"I'm really excited about him," Gruden said of Warren. "He made a real impact on our team and caught five touchdown passes in the few games he played. I don't care what quarter it is, but he's really worked hard rehabbing that ankle. It was a terrible injury and he's a guy that's going to be in the mix. It's going to be really competitive at wide receiver and we might be adding a guy or two before camp. Who knows?"
Moulds has caught 764 career passes and needs just five yards to reach 10,000 for his career. However, he turns 35 in July and has spent the past two seasons with Houston and Tennessee, respectively.
Kennison, 35, has hauled in 548 career passes for 8,345 yards and 42 touchdowns. He was released by the Chiefs in February.
Gilmore, 30, has caught 53 passes for 794 yards and five touchdowns in six seasons in the NFL. He has played for Arizona, Miami and San Francisco.
CADILLAC ON THE MEND One of the other players not participating in organized team activities this offseason is running back Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, who suffered a torn patellar tendon in Week 4 of the 2007 regular season.
The torn patellar tendon injury typically takes at least one year to recover from and sometimes is considered career threatening, but the Bucs believe Williams, a former first-round pick and Rookie of the Year award winner, is actually ahead of schedule and might be ready to return to action when the team reports to training camp in July.
"He's doing great," Gruden said of Williams. "I try not to say too much about him because it's a hard injury to predict. His work ethic is great. I look at my window every morning and see him right at the crack of dawn. I swear on that. He's way ahead of schedule. We don't know how close he is to being ready to go."
GRUDEN COMMENTS ON GARCIA, GRAHAM Quarterback Jeff Garcia completed 63.9 percent of his passes for 2,440 yards and tossed 13 touchdowns and four interceptions in route to making the Pro Bowl in his Buccaneer debut in 2007.
Garcia, 38, is entering the final year of his contract with the Bucs, which is scheduled to pay him $2 million in base salary and has up to $2.5 million in incentives.
Bucs general manager Bruce Allen and Garcia's agent are talking about giving Garcia a new contract, but Garcia has expressed his frustration through the media that a deal isn't yet.
What does Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden think about Garcia's comments and his contract situation?
"I'm not going to elaborate on it much," said Gruden. "I've probably said my opinion on these matters over the last 11 years as a head coach. I'm just going to say that I'm very confident it will all work itself out. In the meantime we're going to get ready to play. I do know this – he's a great competitor and a great leader. He played stellar football for us and he was clutch for us. He's a critical football player for us. Hopefully it all works out."
Despite his frustration with his contract, Garcia still has participated in OTAs. However, running back Earnest Graham has not.
Graham has missed OTAs in the past, but it is believed his absence from OTAs this year is contract related.
A former undrafted free agent, Graham rushed for 898 yards (4.0 avg.) and 10 touchdowns while catching 49 passes for 324 yards in place of Cadillac Williams and Micheal Pittman in 2007.
Graham is in the final year of his contract that is scheduled to earn him $605,000 in 2008.
Like Garcia, the Bucs are also interested in signing Graham to a long-term deal that includes a pay raise.
Gruden hopes to see Graham in practice sometime soon. In the meantime, Tampa Bay is giving his reps to Warrick Dunn and Michael Bennett, among others.
"He missed a lot of time last year, too," Gruden said of Graham. "I hope to see him soon. He was a key member of his team. We're very pleased with the addition of Warrick Dunn and Michael Bennett has been outstanding here this offseason. I hope Earnest gets in here soon. He's a good football player, certainly.
"We have 90 guys here and I'm going to talk about those 90 guys. The other guys have isolated situations and hopefully that will all work out. Their agents are the guys you should talk to or Bruce Allen. Every team I know has a guy or two going through their own situations. I'm more interested in talking about the guys that are here because I've seen them daily and can be professional in my opinions."
QUARTERBACK CAROUSEL CONTINUES Tampa Bay has seven quarterbacks – Jeff Garcia, Brian Griese, Luke McCown, Josh Johnson, Bruce Gradkowski, Chris Simms and Jake Plummer – on its offseason roster.
However, Simms has not participated in organized team activities due to the fact that he doesn't believe he has a future in Tampa Bay. Plummer has not played for Tampa Bay, opting to remain retired.
During Thursday's workout, Garcia took the majority of reps and Griese took the No. 2 reps behind him while McCown, Gradkowski and Johnson were limited.
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden suggested the quarterback reps have –and will continue to be — changed up, accordingly.
"I've been accused of having seven guys, but I've never seen all seven out here at the same time," said Gruden. "We're obviously icing a quarterback on a couple-day basis to feature a few other guys. We've really revved up Jeff Garcia and we've really revved up Brian Griese because he's getting re-oriented here. The promise in McCown is real and we've tried to get him his turns. We'll hope Bruce and Josh pick up there reps here in the coming weeks."
Tampa Bay invested a fifth-round pick in Johnson in April. The Bucs do not plan to use Johnson at quarterback during the regular season, but some wonder if the team has thought about using his athleticism at the wide receiver position or as an option quarterback, just as Pittsburgh did in previous years with Kordell Stewart and Antwaan Randle El.
As of right now that doesn't appear to be Tampa Bay's plan for Johnson.
"I wouldn't confuse him with Randle El or any of those guys at this point," said Gruden. "He's a quarterback and that's the position he'll play in the NFL in my opinion. As soon as he learns the snap count and gets himself ready to go we'll get him some reps and you'll see for yourself what kind of player he is."
GRUDEN IMPRESSED WITH DUNN Bucs head coach Jon Gruden never had the opportunity to work with running back Warrick Dunn during the 5-foot-9, 187-pound's first tour in Tampa Bay.
A first-round pick with the Bucs in 1997, Dunn became a free agent in 2002, which was the same year Tampa Bay traded Oakland for Gruden.
Dunn eventually signed with Atlanta and has carried the ball 2,483 times for 10,181 yards (4.1 avg.) and 47 touchdowns and 463 catches for 4,009 yards (8.7 avg.) and 15 touchdowns.
Needless to say, Gruden was thrilled when the Falcons released Dunn, 33, this offseason and the Bucs signed him to a two-year, $6 million contract.
So far, Gruden has been pleased with what he has seen from Dunn.
"Warrick Dunn looks good," said Gruden. "It's a great responsibility to coach him. He's had great success every year until he met me, so I don't want to screw that up. I'm really thrilled to work with him. He's a quick study and he's comfortable playing any position. He can run it and he can catch the ball. He's a great leader. I still think he has exceptional quickness. He looks good to me."
FAINE SHOWCASING HIS SKILLS AT CENTER Tampa Bay made Jeff Faine the highest-paid center in the NFL on the first day of free agency when the Bucs reportedly signed him to a six-year, $37.5 million contract.
Faine, 26, is a former first-round draft pick that the Bucs believe will serve as an upgrade at the center position, replacing John Wade, who signed with Oakland during the offseason.
It's still early, but the Bucs like what they have seen from Faine so far.
"Jeff has done a great job," said Bucs head coach Jon Gruden. "His leadership, presence and work ethic is what was advertised. His athletic ability on the second level as a perimeter blocker that can get out on screens and things of that nature is outstanding. He's a physical player and I do believe his pass protection, his range and his experience is really going to be an asset for us."
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