NO PLACE LIKE HOME: Tampa Bay has spent practically its entire offseason at One Buccaneer Place, otherwise known as the “woodshed.” With One Buc Place being the NFL’s oldest team headquarters, the Bucs felt like they could use a change in scenery on Wednesday, so Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden brought his team down the street to Raymond James Stadium to hold their third mandatory mini-camp workout of the week.
According to Gruden, the Bucs, who have posted a 7-9 regular season record in games played at Ray-Jay over the past two seasons, need to play better at home in order to return to the playoffs.
“We’ve got some new players, not just the rookies but some veteran players,” Gruden said when asked why he brought the Bucs over to Ray-Jay on Wednesday. “We haven’t played very well there, in my opinion, over the past couple of seasons. Let’s be honest. When you look at this facility and this grass, it all gets a little monotonous with the airplanes. We had the cannons lit up, we had the scoreboard working and we had some crowd noise in there for the goal line period. It just makes it more realistic. I want our players to have a real sense of purpose and a real sense of pride when they go in there and play. We’ve got to do a much better job at home.”
The players apparently enjoyed the change in scenery on Wednesday.
“It’s always nice to get away from the same old atmosphere all the time,” said Bucs running back Michael Pittman. “You want to get away and go do something else. Coach always likes to switch it up for us and going over to the stadium just gets guys used to the atmosphere, especially the young guys who haven’t been here before. It allows them to practice at the stadium, let them get a feel of the field and see how it is out there. Go out there and try to have a good practice.”
The Bucs will hold their fourth and final mandatory mini-camp practice on Thursday at One Buc Place.
Tampa Bay welcomed its second special guest in as many weeks on Wednesday when former Oakland Raiders legendary safety Jack Tatum made an appearance at Ray-Jay for the Bucs’ mandatory mini-camp workout.
“I don’t have a lot of friends, but he’s one of them,” Gruden said of Tatum. “When we beat the Raiders in the Super Bowl, that was the one ex-Oakland employee or whatever you want to call it to congratulate me. When I went out to the Bay Area to work out the quarterback from California, he was the one ex-Raider who came and met with me. He’s a friend.”
Last week, Hall of Fame head coach Bill Walsh spent two days at Tampa Bay’s organized team activities. Walsh spent a lot of time with the players, particularly quarterbacks Brian Griese, Chris Simms, Luke McCown and Jared Allen. On Wednesday, Tatum spent a significant amount of time meeting with Tampa Bay’s safeties.
“I wanted him to be around Jermaine Phillips and Dexter Jackson and Will Allen and Donte Nicholson,” said Gruden. “I wanted him to be around those guys. We brought Ronnie Lott in here a few years ago , and we had a great history of safety play by John Lynch. I think Jermaine Phillips can be great. Dexter Jackson won the MVP in a Super Bowl. I think Will Allen has a chance to be a very good player. This guy was one helluva player. He was a great team man and loyal friend. I think our players really enjoyed being around him.”
COMING TOGETHER: The Bucs are obviously hard at work in an attempt to right the ship after two straight losing seasons, but one of the things being stressed on the football field at One Buc Place these days is the relationship the players have on and off of it.
“More than anything right now, I really like the chemistry on this football team right now,” said Gruden. “Last year, we had some people on this team that maybe didn’t like the position they were playing or the whatever it may be. I think we have a collective vibe right now that’s a strong one.”
Gruden feels good teams have a strong bond and relationship, and those are the types of things the Bucs players are in the process of building on.
“The good teams I’ve been on, the camaraderie has been great,” said Gruden. “The teams that have struggled have not been as good, generally. You could say it’s coaching, or it’s injuries or it’s maybe not kicking well, or fumbles or turnovers. But it’s also guys that maybe aren’t quite 100 percent together for a lot of reasons.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Bucs head coach Jon Gruden when asked if he could put the rumor to rest that suggests tackle Kenyatta Walker might become a salary cap casualty:
“I’m not going to comment on any of that. The rumor was started by somebody who probably needs to answer those questions. We expect Kenyatta to be here, and that’s about all I can say.”
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