The Buccaneers are expected to release their training camp schedule in the next few weeks. No one should be surprised if it looks a little different than previous year's practice schedules.
Tampa Bay is tweaking its training camp schedule due to the fact that the NFL has reduced the maximum number of players each team can have on its roster to just 80.
In previous years, NFL teams were afforded the luxury of carrying extra players on their training camp rosters thanks to NFL Europe exemptions, but that league no longer exists, which means NFL teams are no longer able to reap those roster benefits.
That means the Bucs, who have 93 players on their current roster, must make several roster moves between now and the time the Bucs report to training camp on July 25.
"We have to make some tough calls. We don't have anymore time – we're out of time," said Gruden. "When the rookies sign they obviously have to have a place on the roster when they come to camp. There's some tough decisions. It's emotional to me because you haven't seen these guys out here in April, May and June, but they've been working hard. You'd like to afford them the opportunity to benefit from that hard work."
The Bucs are especially concerned about the roster reduction due to the hot and humid temperatures in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., which is where the team has conducted training camp for the past six years.
Tampa Bay has held its training camp practices on the fields at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex, but those fields aren't covered, which presents a serious issue when storms roll in or the players cannot replenish their fluids in-between two-a-day practices due to the hot and humid conditions.
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden has some concerns regarding the NFL -mandated roster limit of 80, and he has shared them with the media this week.
"I don't know why we can only have 80 guys. I don't know why it can't be more like 180," said Gruden. "We've got 80 guys and I'm sure there's going to be a few guys that are PUP (physically unable to perform), a few kickers, long snappers and three, four, five or six quarterbacks, however many we wind up taking to camp, who knows? It limits the amount of guys that practice. Therefore, the number of reps you can get in 100-plus degree temperatures outdoors – it's something you have to keep your eyes on. Repetition is the mother of learning. That's the way I was brought up in this business. We have to get the work done, but we have to do it creatively. Some of the reps might not be full speed reps, but we have to do the best we can."
No one should be surprised if the Bucs reduce the number of two-a-day practices the team has, limiting some days to just one morning workout in camp. Tampa Bay will also attempt to conduct a few practices indoors or under some sort of cover, but the team hasn't elaborated on those particular plans yet.
"They are going to have some sort of indoor facility up there," said Gruden. "We're anxious to check it out. Hopefully it's high enough to where we can get some film.
"We have tweaked [the training camp schedule] the last couple of years and if they want to continue to reduce the number of players in camp and the weather continues to get hotter we'll have to continue to make some concessions. We'll have to be a little more creative in terms of how we get our work done."
Early indications are Gruden and the Bucs will definitely be creative with their training camp schedule. In fact, the Bucs plan to hold at least one night practice in training camp this year for the first time under Gruden since his arrival in 2002. Night practices during training camp were quite common at the University of Tampa under former Bucs head coach Tony Dungy.
While the weather and reduced roster are factors in the decision to hold at least one night practice in training camp this year, the fact that the Bucs are scheduled to play three nationally televised night games in 2008 also played a role in that decision.
"We're going to have a night practice this year," said Gruden. "I want to see our new punt and kick returners handle the ball in the lights. We're going to play a Monday Night Game and we're going to play Miami (in preseason) in the lights, so I want to let our returners and receivers go out there and handle the ball. That's part of the evaluation. Some guys can't find the ball in the nighttime as well as they can in the daytime. I was one of those receivers."
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