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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the field at One Buccaneer Place on Wednesday morning for their second day of mini-camp practices under new head coach Raheem Morris.
Wednesday morning’s workout was the third practice of the mini-camp, and the first of two today. Skies were partly sunny and the temperature was in the low 80s with breezy conditions in Tampa.
Missing from the voluntary practice were quarterback Brian Griese, tackle Donald Penn and running backs Earnest Graham and Cadillac Williams.
Graham and Williams are coming off ankle and knee injuries, respectively, and Graham also has a family matter to tend to this week.
Griese is with his pregnant wife Brook in Denver, and Penn, who has not signed his one-year, $2.7 million tender as a restricted free agent.
The Buccaneers were without two of their standout players on offense on Tuesday morning. Center Jeff Faine and tight end Kellen Winslow were not practicing with their teammates. Winslow was on the field observing, but Faine was not out with his teammates.
Faine told PewterReport.com that he tweaked his back while weightlifting last week, and that his absence was precaution. Sean Mahan and Jeremy Zuttah have been taking reps at center in place of Faine.
For the second straight day, the Bucs defense worked on turnover drills to start practice. Forcing turnovers has been a big theme that defensive coordinator Jim Bates has been preaching from the first team meeting three weeks ago. The defensive line, linebackers and defensive backs all lined up in a row with the first player in line carrying the ball and another defensive player lining up behind them punching the ball or ripping the ball out from the rear and then attempting to recover the fumble.
“Hammer and then bring it back!” Bates screamed to his defensive players. “Be quick and snap that thing out of there! Get it out of there! Turn it out of there!”
Last year, the Bucs forced only nine fumbles and recovered six of them. Not only does Bates want forced fumbles, but he wants interceptions, too. Bates, who was much more animated on Wednesday than he was yesterday in the practice periods that were open to the media, spent the majority of the early practice time with the linebackers and defensive backs.
After the forced fumble drills, the defensive backs worked on interceptions by backpedaling and breaking on the ball. Cornerback Ronde Barber stumbled and fell backwards during this drill, but showed his resolve by quickly rolling upright and continuing the drill without missing much of a beat. There will be those who question whether Barber still has the physical ability to be a starter in 2009, and he appears to be invigorated by the naysayers.
“Put it away once we get the interception!” Bates said to the linebackers. “Once we get it, we have to go right into ball security mode.”
A couple of players dropped interceptions during the drill, including Adam Hayward and Quincy Black. Once they dropped them, the fell to the ground and did 10 push-ups.
One of the cornerbacks who displayed very good athleticism was Kyle Arrington, a first-year player from Hofstra, who was on the practice squad last year. Arrington has good size at 5-foot-10, 196 pounds and showed springs in his legs as he skied for an interception in the individual drills.
While the linebackers did fumble recovery drills for the second straight day with coach Joe Barry rolling the football at the players like a bouncing bowling ball, the cornerbacks worked on tackling technique near the sidelines with one player with the ball simulating a running back, tight end or receiver, and another one playing the defender.
“Use the sideline!” Bates shouted. “The sideline is your best friend!”
The linebackers continued to work in pass coverage situations, shuffling and backpedaling into zone coverage. All of the linebackers appear to be athletic and fast.
Head coach Raheem Morris said the emphasis of the mini-camp was for the team to work on their timing and precision. One of the aspects of football that he used as examples for that were getting plays called and snap counts executed.
Quarterback Josh Johnson, running back Clifton Smith, and fullback B.J. Askew were not on the same page on that this morning. It was unclear whether Johnson or Askew made the mistake on one particular play, but their mix up caused running backs coach Steve Logan to holler at his players and go back over the snap count.
The running backs continued to work on finding holes in zone-blocking rushing plays. The coaches employed the big balance balls (the size of beach balls) in an effort to help the running backs find the holes in the zone-blocking scheme. The balls were being rolled towards the running back on either side of them. The ballcarriers ran laterally and then made a cut up field and ran between the balls following their fullbacks.
Fullback Byron Storer looks completely healed from his 2008 season-ending ACL injury. Storer looked fluid in running routes as a receiver and explosive coming out of his stance in the backfield.
The wide receivers worked on ball security, and they did an overall good job of catching the ball in the majority of their drills.
However, there were some dropped passes. Maurice Stovall, Michael Clayton, Anthony Mix and Paris Warren each had drops.
Wide receiver Maurice Stovall had one dropped pass, as did Michael Clayton.
Once again, the media is only permitted to watch the first 30 minutes of practice, which is why these Pewter Insider reports aren’t longer and include more details.