As Scott Reynolds wrote in his fourth topic in last Friday’s Fab 5, “Observations From Bucs OTAs”, there’s been noticeable energy in the Bucs early practices this offseason.
Aside from the pop music – Earth Wind and Fire has been a favorite – coaches can be heard loud and clear while getting a point across, and it’s common to see a position specialist working one-on-one with a player until he masters the footwork of the drill.
The passion and up-tempo pace has been particularly apparent on the defensive side of the ball, where Mike Smith’s energy has trickled down and elicited a response from players that Dirk Koetter hopes to take into training camp and the preseason.
“I’ve really been impressed with the energy of our defense in general,” Koetter said Thursday. “Their communication, the way they’re flying around to the ball – those guys are having fun our there and they’re making plays.”
The defensive coaches are doing their part, too.
“Not only Mike, but the entire defensive staff,” Koetter said. “I think those guys are doing a heck of a job coaching those guys and hats off to the players for the way they’ve taken it and run.”
Indeed, players’ effort has reflected the energy. After Gerald McCoy told reporters two weeks ago that Mike Smith is “a passionate coach” who’s “just about winning” and making guys better teammates, Robert Ayers on Thursday praised the former Falcon’s head coach for his ability to put players in position to succeed. Which has been the theme of Smith’s presence since he arrived in January.
“He’s all about giving you knowledge to be able to anticipate what guys are going to do and how they’re going to attack you,” Ayers said. “He wants to fill your toolbox up. He doesn’t want to send you out on the field not prepared. That’s what I like. He’s given us a lot of knowledge and put a lot on our plate, and the expectations are high, as they should be. We’re all just trying to soak it all up and let him motivate us and motivate ourselves to get better.”
Asked about the energy in practice, Ayers said that any attitude – positive or negative – is “contagious” in its environment and the good vibe is “rubbing off on the players.” It’s reasonable to think the heat and entirely new playbook could wear a player down, but so far, the Bucs’ defense hasn’t had that problem in OTAs.
“You can have a lot of guys who are negative and they can bring the room down,” Ayers said. “But here, man, I haven’t seen one guy who’s like that.”
High energy and positive reinforcement is important during OTAs and training camp because, as Koetter noted, practicing against your own team can get stale at times. To maintain a competitive atmosphere, the Bucs have scheduled joint training-camp practices against the Jaguars and Browns this summer, but in the early parts of the offseason, Tampa Bay seems to be doing a great job of keeping everyone engaged.
“I’m happy when every single guy out there is fired up,” Koetter said. “When you’re going against yourself all day, half the people are sad and half the people are happy. It’s been great energy across the board.”