After holding two workouts at One Buccaneer Place on Tuesday, the Buccaneers held their third mandatory mini-camp practice at Raymond James Stadium on Wednesday morning.
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden likes to have his players practice at Ray-Jay since the team plays eight regular season home games there each year.The next time the Bucs will take the field as a team again at Ray-Jay will be for their preseason home opener vs. New England on Aug. 17.
"I think this is good," Gruden said of practicing at Raymond James Stadium. "This is where we play and this is where it all happens. We have a lot of new guys that are getting acclimated to the surroundings. This is a good way to kind of wind down, wind down right here at home."
Gruden also liked hearing the pirate ship's cannons go off when his offense was able to score against the defense in red zone and goal line drills on Wednesday, adding, "That scarred the hell out of me."
However, the defense also had some success in terms of holding the offense out of the end zone and stalling some of their drives.
“Sometimes the defense executes, too,” said Gruden. “In the two-minute drill we drove the field and kicked the game-winning field goal and the second time around the defense stopped us. There were positive plays in the red zone from both sides. I don’t ever expect there to be a lopsided butt-kicking here, ever.”
One player that didn't fare particularly well on Wednesday was quarterback Jeff Garcia. But Garcia's inconsistent performance at the stadium was the exception, not the norm, according to Gruden and what he has seen from his starting signal caller this offseason.
“He struggled with a few snaps today, but he’s been exceptional here,” Gruden said of Garcia. “It’s unfortunate that you had to see him early on in the 7-on-7 drill, but he’s had a great camp. He’s leaps and bounds ahead of where he was this time last year.”
A few players could not participate on Wednesday, including running back Cadillac Williams (knee), running back Cory Boyd (knee) and tackle Luke Petitgout (knee).
However, after the two-hour workout all of the Bucs players boarded buses, returned to One Buccaneer Place to get showered, dressed and then traveled to Pin Chasers in Tampa for an afternoon of bowling and camaraderie building.
"We're going to get together (for bowling)," said Gruden. "We had two practices yesterday and we had tremendous turnout. I think now is the time where we mix the players up and put four guys that are bowling together or eating a hotdog with four guys they may not know. We call it camaraderie time, and it's a mandatory event. We'll have some fun in the process."
The Bucs are scheduled to conduct their final mandatory mini-camp practice at One Buccaneer Place on Thursday morning before getting away from the action until July 25, which is when the team is scheduled to report to Celebration Hotel for the start of training camp.
Gruden has been pleased with his team's work and effort this offseason and actually encouraged his players to stay in shape, but get away from football over the next month or so.
"We like certain aspects and there are certain areas that we have a long way to go," Gruden said of his players and team. "That's why we have training camp.
"They know what to do. They have to take care of themselves and stay in shape. They have to get some rest, but at the same time they have to get away from it some and get rejuvenated. They have to remember that they're living in a glass house. They need to be smart and really enjoy the time because they've really invested a lot. ‘Don't blow it now. Come to training camp ready to showcase your best stuff because that's what we're going to need to win."
Not all of the players on Tampa Bay's current roster will be able to go to training camp with the Bucs, though. The NFL mandates that all 32 teams limit their rosters to 80 players, which means Tampa Bay, which has 93 players on its current roster, will have to release some players sometime this month as well as before the Bucs ink the six remaining unsigned members of their 2008 NFL Draft class. One player from that class – RB Cory Boyd – has already signed with the team.
"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 are 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."
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