With Tampa Bay's first OTA (organized team activity) taking place on Tuesday at One Buccaneer Place, here are some news, notes and observations from the Pewter Report staff.
Tampa Bay had over a dozen players finish the 2007 regular season on injured reserve, but several of those players, including safeties Tanard Jackson (knee) and Sabby Piscitelli (foot), cornerback Torrie Cox (knee), tackle Luke Petitgout (knee), wide receivers Maurice Stovall (forearm), Paris Warren (ankle) and Joey Galloway (shoulder), linebacker Antoine Cash (knee) and tackle Jeremy Trueblood (shoulder), back on the practice field on Tuesday.
With the loss of Matt Lehr, former starting left guard Dan Buenning has become the backup center behind starter Jeff Faine. No surprise there, but it was interesting to see second-year left guard Arron Sears take some snaps at center in the individual drills on Tuesday. The Bucs still have a contract offer on the table to veteran Jeremy Newberry, so Sears' reps as a snapper may be coming to an end if the Bucs add a new center. Yet it was still interesting to see him being cross-trained at the center position.
New Tampa Bay tight end John Gilmore is one big dude. Although he is listed at 6-foot-5, 257 pounds, he looks bigger and much more muscular than starter Alex Smith (6-foot-4, 258) and new reserve Ben Troupe (6-foot-4, 260). None of the three is an elite athlete, but the combined presence of Smith, Troupe and Gilmore may give Tampa Bay it's most collective amount of athleticism at the position from a top to bottom depth chart perspective.
Under tackle Jovan Haye participated in Tuesday's OTA despite not signing his one-year tender offer from the Buccaneers. Haye told Pewter Report that he is committed to being out on the field despite his unresolved contract situation. Haye, who is a restricted free agent, is believed to be negotiations with the Buccaneers on a long-term contract.
With Brian Griese missing Tuesday's OTA due to a previous commitment, and Chris Simms choosing to stay away from the voluntary workouts, Jeff Garcia, Luke McCown and Bruce Gradkowski were the quarterbacks on hand. The absence of Simms and Griese was beneficial to Gradkowski, whose roster spot is in jeopardy this year, as well as McCown, whose status with the team could be threatened if the Bucs decide to draft a quarterback. McCown had a few nice passes on Tuesday, including deep bombs to wide receiver Taye Biddle and Micheal Spurlock, respectively.
It was a bit odd seeing special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia working with the running backs on Tuesday, but that's his new role. The energetic and upbeat Bisaccia really drives his running backs in practice and is very demanding, according to Michael Bennett. While Bisaccia, who also has the new title of associate head coach, was overseeing the running backs, special teams quality control coach Dewayne Stukes was working with long snapper Andrew Economos. Punter Josh Bidwell and kicker Matt Bryant did not attend Tuesday's voluntary workouts. While halfback Warrick Dunn was present in his familiar number 28 jersey, last year's leading rusher, Earnest Graham, did not attend the workout.
Running back Cadillac Williams walked onto the field with a slight limp on Tuesday and did an individual workout on the far practice field with team trainer Todd Toriscelli and strength and conditioning coach Mike Morris. Williams did some jogging with a resistance harness on and the limp persisted. Williams has clearly made progress since his torn patellar tendon surgery last October, but anyone who thinks he won't start the 2008 season on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list is dreaming. Evidenced by what Pewter Report saw on Tuesday, Williams still has a long way to go to get back to 100 percent.
Several of Tampa Bay's college scouts, including Frank Dorazio and Seth Turner, were in attendance for the Bucs' organized team activity on Tuesday. They certainly were busy as the Bucs had over a dozen draft-eligible collegiate players in for visits with the team on Tuesday. Pewter Report was only successful in identifying one of the players (keep reading to learn the identity of that player).
What was even more odd was seeing defensive line coach Larry Coyer watching the defensive backs the entire practice. If Coyer spent any time with the defensive line on Tuesday, it was only a few minutes as he left that duty to assistant defensive line coach Todd Wash. Coyer didn't participate in coaching the secondary, he just observed. But Coyer wasn't the only spectator watching the DBs. Kent State cornerback Jack Williams was diligently watching Raheem Morris and Co. go through their drills on Tuesday. Safety Will Allen and cornerback Phillip Buchanon missed Tuesday's voluntary workout. Sammy Davis started in place of Buchanon at left cornerback during team drills. New Bucs cornerback Eugene Wilson backed up Ronde Barber on the right side.
The absence of running back Earnest Graham and cornerback Phillip Buchanon shouldn't be cause for alarm just yet by Buccaneers fans. After all, the OTAs are voluntary workouts, and veteran linebacker Derrick Brooks, cornerback Torrie Cox and wide receiver Joey Galloway all ended their participation early. But it should be noted that both Buchanon and Graham have Drew Rosenhaus as their agent and he is notorious for having his clients stay away from offseason workouts and even hold out of training camp to get new contracts. Buchanon and Graham are in the final year of their existing deals, but as it turns out, Buchanon was actually taking part in an NFL-sponsored Harvard School of Business seminar along with safety Will Allen. Both Buchanon and Allen will be back at One Buc Place on Thursday for the last OTA of the week. While Buchanon called Pewter Report to explain his absence on Tuesday, a phone call to Graham was not returned.
Tampa Bay's linebacking corps swelled with the addition of several new faces this offseason, including Teddy Lehman, Matt McCoy and Leon Joe along with the re-signing of Antoine Cash. But that unit took a bit of a hit on Tuesday as both Ryan Nece and Quincy Black attended the workouts, but did not participate – possibly due to some minor injuries. Starting strongside linebacker Cato June worked out on his own on a separate field with trainer Todd Toriscelli. June is rehabbing a broken foot and is expected to miss most or all of the offseason OTAs and mini-camps. Joe took his place as the starting strongside linebacker on Tuesday. McCoy's first workout with the Bucs ended quickly as he suffered lacerated fingers on his right hand 30 minutes into the practice.
Bucs right tackle Jeremy Trueblood was sporting a new hairdo on Tuesday that featured … hair. Trueblood, who shaved his head during his first two years in Tampa Bay, is growing his hair out and was barely recognizable, expect for his 6-foot-8, 320-pound frame.
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Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org