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The Buccaneers took the practice field for their final day of two-a-days in training camp wearing shells (jerseys, shoulder pads, helmets and shorts). At the end of the overcast practice, the thermometer read 92 degrees on the field, but very breezy conditions made the practice very tolerable from a weather standpoint. The following players missed practice: WR Joey Galloway (groin), DT Jovan Haye (groin), LB Matt McCoy (undisclosed), TE Ben Troupe (foot) and FS Donte Nicholson (soreness).
During the individual period, the quarterbacks and tight ends worked on ball security with one player holding the ball and another player trying to slap the ball out from behind.
During the offense’s installation period, the wide receivers were working on blocking for wide receiver screens. After Tuesday’s sloppy practice by the offense, Gruden was firing up the players throughout the session.
“Have some urgency, Mike Spurlock,” yelled Gruden. Later he rode Spurlock again.
“Jet stream, Spurlock,” shouted Gruden.
The receivers had some drops during the practice, including drops from Maurice Stovall and tight end Alex Smith. Some of the passes were off and Gruden yelled at his starting quarterback, Jeff Garcia, after one low pass.
“Ball up, something to catch, please,” yelled Gruden. Garcia was not the only quarterback that Gruden rode. Quarterback Luke McCown got some tough coaching from Gruden as well. He shouted to him after a pass was high for wide receiver Ike Hilliard, and again coming out of a huddle.
“Come on, Luke,” shouted Gruden. “Come on Luke, have a little personality, number 12.”
The offense was fairly sharp during the installation period and at the conclusion Gruden was pleased, “Good work, guys,” he yelled.
During the defense’s individual period, Bucs defensive backs coach Raheem Morris was talking some smack to his players to get them fired up. Morris was talking out loud about Phillip Buchanon’s days back at Oakland and how the former first-round pick snubbed defensive quality control coach Ejiro Evero (who is Morris’ assistant) back in the day when Evero was signed to the Raiders as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2004.
“P-Buc didn’t even talk to E in Oakland,” Morris kidded. “That’s back when Buc was big time, showing up in limos and wearing pajamas!”
Buchanon was laughing, but was clearly embarrassed as his teammates were laughing and getting on his case. The light-hearted Morris has a way to liven up the most mundane drills and really get his players into practice.
During the individual defensive backs session, the players had trouble holding onto interceptions. Cornerback Sammy Davis, who was really struggling physically with his hip flexor injury, cornerback Elbert Mack and safety Tanard Jackson dropped picks. Jackson was very active in practice though, and he had a great day, breaking up several passes in both individual and team drills.
The defensive team install period consisted of walking through linebacker and defensive back blitzes. If you watched Saturday’s game at Miami, the Bucs were using a lot of blitzes to prepare for the season. The inside word is that the team does not believe it will be able to generate enough consistent pressure from the four-man rush from the defensive line and will need to blitz to generate such pressure.
After the install period, the defensive backs squared off against the receivers in red zone passing situations. Wideout Antonio Bryant looked sharp during this drill, catching a nice slant in front of cornerback Ronde Barber.
When Mack got beat on a 20-yard fade pass from Jeff Garcia intended for Cortez Hankton, Morris came in with the coaching points after Hankton scored a touchdown.
“When you see it’s a fade, get ready to haul ass,” Morris said to Mack. “It ain’t a curl. Once you recognize the fade, go get it.”
Like he usually does, Morris was jawing back and forth with wide receiver Ike Hilliard. At age 32, Hilliard doesn’t have great speed and Morris is always quick to point that out.
“Don’t worry corners, Ike can’t get vertical,” Morris usually says.
On Wednesday, he was playfully criticizing Hilliard’s ability to make yards after the catch on underneath routes.
“Ike can’t break tackles,” Morris yelled.
After practice, Morris addressed his bantering with Hilliard to Pewter Report.
“What Ike brings to this team is the ability to go out on third down and make the big catch,” Morris said. “In any clutch situation he stands up and just performs. He’s unbelievable. He’s a big-time competitor, so I always mess with him. If I can get Ike really competing in practice, it only makes my guys better. Once I get that going, it’s awesome. Joey [Galloway] will just blow me off and he’ll just go walk around. Coach Gruden calls him the ‘white tiger.’ You only see him every once in a while. I can’t get him going as much. Ike, I can get him going, though. It’s a lot of fun. If you can cover his shake routes, you can cover anything else.”
Morris really started talking trash to the receivers, especially after Mack made a nice play to break up a pass intended for Chad Lucas.
“Lucas, are you mad because he touched you?” Morris yelled to the young wide receiver.
The receivers started hooting and hollering when Hilliard juked free safety Will Allen for a big gain in the red zone, which prompted Morris to yell to the receivers, “Yeah, okay. I see how you are. Let’s get Ike on a safety and then start cheering!”
Morris wound up having the last laugh when a quick slant intended for Spurlock was broken up by strong safety Jermaine Phillips. The ball bounced up in the air right and into the hands of Morris, who was standing in the middle of the field on the goal line. The 32-year old Morris, who played football at Hofstra, grabbed the pick and took off, using his 4.55 speed to go 99 yards down the right sidelines as all of the DBs stood at the 20, cheering him on.
Morris was out of breath as he walked back down to the other end zone, looking at Pewter Report and saying, “I think I pulled a hammy!”
After practice, Morris talked about his highlight play, which really fired up the DBs.
“You tell your guys to do something and when it’s your turn [my turn], I have to follow suit,” Morris said with a big grin. “I tell my guys to take a pick-six and go the full 99, so when I got one, and my guys were telling me the same thing – I’ve got to do it, too. We’re all a part of the same crew. I was a little bit tired after that and I might have messed up the entire next period, but that’s okay.”
To round out the 1-on-1 red zone period, rookie Aqib Talib made a real nice pass breakup in front of Bryant. Rookie wide receiver Dexter Jackson had a very good session in the 1-on-1’s and caught a pair of touchdowns.
The Bucs had a physical 9-on-7 session with the intensity at a higher level. Running back Warrick Dunn had a good run up the middle as the guards made their blocks and center Jeff Faine was able to get to the second level of the defense. There were some real physical grudge matches between defensive tackle Chris Hovan and guard Davin Joseph and Faine. Joseph had a big block on the second level to spring running back Michael Bennett for a big run.
The Bucs did try a few passes and McCown rolled out to throw a short pass to Smith that was broken up by linebacker Derrick Brooks. Brooks may have been too early with his contact, and McCown was pressured by defensive end Greg White on the play.
Defensive lineman Marques Douglas had a good practice and was hard for the offensive lineman to move off the line of scrimmage. Rookie defensive tackle Chris Bradwell made a great play shedding a block and stuffing a run by Earnest Graham at the line of scrimmage.
The Bucs worked their two-minute offense again on Wednesday. Just like the day before McCown worked with the second-string offensive line and Griese worked with the first-team offensive line. Neither quarterback led a drive into scoring position.
McCown started his drive off with a pass to Michael Clayton along the sideline. The young quarterback also received a low snap from center Dan Buenning, which he was unable to hold on to. McCown corralled the ball and but was sacked. Gruden had an eruption after that play and called a timeout. McCown’s last pass was incomplete as he threw for Clayton.
Griese started off by completing a short pass along the sideline to Stovall. The Bucs then ran a reverse with Hilliard that got very little gain. Graham followed that with a good run up the middle. Near the line of scrimmage Graham ran into a blocker and spun off the teammate and turned up field to run for a good gain. The next play was a short pass to fullback B.J. Askew who dropped the pass. That was the final play of Griese’s two minute-offense.
During 11-on-11’s receiver Michael Clayton dropped a pass, which caused someone on the defense to say, “Oh, he dropped another one.” Clayton did rebound to catch a nice 20 yard out from McCown.
Bryant had a great performance in 11-on-11’s, catching a skinny post from Griese in front of Barber, and then caught a slant from McCown in front of Barber.
Linebacker Ryan Nece continued his feisty play, tackling Spurlock on a play. But there was no pushing or shoving after the play and no fighting. Nece and wide receiver Brian Clark got into a skirmish on Tuesday.
Linebacker Quincy Black made a great read on Warrick Dunn who raced to the flat to catch a pass. Dunn caught the ball, but Black made sure he didn’t gain a yard.
The stellar linebacker play continued when Cato June stepped in front of tight end John Gilmore to swat the ball away.
The end of the 11-on-11 session ended when Buchanon leaped in front of Hankton and picked off a pass from Chris Simms. Tampa Bay’s defense would have likely sacked him before Simms threw the ball, which prompted a defensive player to yell, “A sack and a pick!”
During the special teams portion of practice, kicker Matt Bryant was 3-of-3 from 42 yards out, but was wide left on a kick from 49 yards.
During the punt rush-punt return drills, Spurlock muffed a punt and Jackson had trouble fielding one with the wind gusts playing havoc with the football when it was in the air. The fact that it was windy was a good test for the return men because there is usually not too much wind during training camp in Orlando, which is in the middle of the state of Florida.
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