The Buccaneers are returning to Tampa this year for training camp for the first time since the 2001 season, but things won’t be the same as the days we practiced at the University of Tampa. This year’s team will get to stay in a cush hotel and practice at One Buc Place, while we stayed in the hot UT dorm rooms and practiced at the soccer stadium.

I hated training camp, but saw the value in it – sometimes. I can remember Sam Wyche telling us to wear all the pads we could put on. He meant shoulder pads, neck braces, knee braces, forearm pads, elbow pads, biceps pads, wristbands, thigh pads, shin guards, cups – anything we could find. He said, “I want you to practice with all that gear on because when we play without all that gear on, you’ll be that much faster.”

I can remember going out for a couple practices like that and it was horrible. I was hot and I couldn’t move. I was like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz. Listen, if you want to play fast you have to practice fast.

Tony Dungy tried to make training camp hard for us by having us scrimmage against other teams. He would make it extremely difficult for us by getting on a bus at 5:00 a.m. and driving up to Jacksonville. Once we got there we only had 30 minutes to gear up and then we had a full-on scrimmage.

Then we went to a big square room, laid down on a concrete floor and rest for an hour, watched film and then went out and practiced again. After that we had the bus ride home. Tony would tell us that if this were to happen during the season and times got tough we would be able to deal with it and play strong football under non-ideal conditions.

We also went down to Miami before a preseason game and got delayed somehow. We got to the game right before it started. We didn’t even have time to scrimmage, but we went out and played pretty well.

I remember him saying, “We had a tough time in Miami. You didn’t need all that pampering. You manned up and played football.”

I loved scrimmaging against the other Florida teams during training camp and I definitely think the Bucs should get back to doing that. I got sick of going up against Tony Mayberry, Ian Beckles, Frank Middleton and Jorge Diaz all the time. You see those guys over and over and over again and you learn their moves and vice versa. They keep seeing your techniques and they know what you do and how to play you.

Two weeks into camp you think, “Man, I need to hit somebody else!”

It’s nice to play against different guys where your techniques are new to them and they aren’t able to block you because they are not used to you. Other teams’ players do the same thing for you and get you ready for different stuff that you might see during the season.

I think going up against teams like Jacksonville and Miami is great. It’s very competitive and it brings your team together as one unit. In training camp, it’s always offense versus defense. It’s Buccaneer versus Buccaneer and you hate the offense all camp. But when you scrimmage someone else it’s like “We’re all Buccaneers and you all are the bad guys.”

Then you want your offense to do well against the Dolphins. You want your guards to block the Jaguars. It’s more of a team effort. It makes you tough. It’s not easy. Guys are scrapping for their jobs and you are scrapping for yours. It’s hot drama that should be revisited once again.

Brad Culpepper played nose tackle in Tampa Bay from 1994-99. Culpepper, who is a personal injury attorney in Tampa, can be reached online at CKFirm.com or 1-888-994-2723.

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