The wet weather forced the Bucs inside The Advent Health Training Center indoor facility on Friday, Tampa Bay’s fifth straight day of camp. The indoor, climate-controlled temperature was a welcomed relief after one of the hottest mornings of camp over the last few years on Thursday, a morning that saw more than one player lose their breakfast on the sidelines between plays.
The coaching staff gave a number of high-profile veterans a day off, most notably quarterback Tom Brady. Joining Brady on the sideline was linebacker Lavonte David, outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul, wide receiver Chris Godwin and tight end Rob Gronkowski.
QB Tom Brady and Chris Godwin also given the day off on Friday to go with JPP, Lavonte David, and Gronk.
With Brady watching from the sideline in a gray hoodie, it was the Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Griffin show on Friday.
To say there is a drop-off from Brady to the other quarterbacks on the roster would be an understatement. Without No. 12 under center, the offense had a number of sluggish periods and there seemed to be a little less juice that Brady has brought to the table the previous four days. Part of that could also be the players having their minds already on their first scheduled day off which comes on Saturday. Whatever the reason, the practice was a little more subdued over what we’ve seen since last Monday. As Scott Reynolds described it, it was like a fourth preseason game. Everyone knew there was work to do, but with so many starters sitting, the intensity just wasn’t quite the same.
The day started with individual periods and special teams. The Bucs have spent most of the week working on their return game, but on Friday the focus turned to kick coverage. Early on the gunners, including standout special teamer Ryan Smith, worked on downing punts inside the 10-yard line. Bradley Pinion worked from around midfield sending high, booming kicks down towards the goal line, and Smith and a handful of others worked on batting the ball back and keeping it out of the end zone. Next was covering punts as an 11-man unit.
On the sides of the practice field the other units worked on fundamentals. The outside linebackers practiced picking up bouncing fumbles and securing them. The interior defensive line worked on fighting off double teams and going with the flow of the play.
Later in practice we saw the offensive and defensive lines get together for a brief period of double-team drills. Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet really stood out in the drill, and at one point after Smith released to reach the second level, Marpet planted a lineman on the turf. Alex Cappa and Tristan Wirfs paired up as well, working from the right side. They weren’t as dominant as the duo of Smith and Marpet, but had some winning reps against some of the backup defensive linemen. Veteran Ndamukong Suh, however, made the two look like the fairly inexperienced players that they are, stoning them, fighting off the block and getting into the backfield on one rep.
The team then went into an 11-on-11 period mix of pass and run. Blaine Gabbert took the first snaps all morning in Brady’s absence, and had an up-and-down practice. It probably isn’t fair to assess or compare Gabbert’s performance on Friday to what we’ve seen from Brady through the first four days, as the journeyman QB just doesn’t match Brady’s talent level. That isn’t a knock on Gabbert. There is a reason Brady was signed to start and Gabbert is a backup.
Ryan Griffin struggled for much of the morning, but had a few bright spots including leading the team down for a winning score in a do-or-die scenario that closed out Friday’s practice. Both quarterbacks were given :19 on the clock, down by two points and no timeouts, to try and move their team into field goal range. Griffin found a receiver for a 20-yard gain just past midfield, then spiked the ball with four seconds left. Elliot Fry made the approximately 55-yard kick to win the game in the scenario. Matt Gay also was able to hit his game-winning attempt as well, although the second-year kicker struggled midway through practice. Gay missed three-of-five kicks while Fry made four of his five opportunities from the same distance.
After practice, head coach Bruce Arians spoke about the kicking battle.
“It’s an ongoing competition,” Arians said. “We’ll add them up at the end and they both hit the game winners under pressure situations today. It’s a shame we don’t have preseason games to throw them out there and find out, but Elliot’s kicking the ball extremely well.”
On Friday, wide receiver Scotty Miller continued his impressive camp with several catches, including a diving one-handed grab over the middle in an 11-on-11 period on a Gabbert thrown pass. While he has likely dropped a pass or two through five days, we can’t remember seeing any. If it is in Miller’s vicinity he has been finding ways to come down with the ball – and not just on deep shots. Miller is showcasing his talent to be an all-around receiver and not just a one-dimensional vertical threat. Miller might be the most improved offensive player from a year ago through the early part of training camp.
After seeing running back T.J. Logan go down with a knee injury on Thursday the Bucs may have lost another offensive player for a significant length of time. Versatile athlete and wide receiver Jonathan Franklin III was participating in 1-on-1 drills with the cornerbacks when he ran a 15-yard sideline comeback route and went down clutching his leg after planting to come back for the ball.
Franklin stayed on the turf for awhile before the training staff assisted him to the sideline where they worked on his left leg. After a few minutes a cart was called over and Franklin was loaded and taken to the locker room. As the cart drove by, an obviously distraught Franklin was seen with his hands on his head in frustration. Following practice Arians told the media Franklin would receive an MRI but it was “not looking very good.”
The Buccaneers players have a day off on Saturday and will be back on the field Sunday morning at 8:30, pending the approaching weather systems heading toward the Gulf of Mexico.
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org