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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the practice field this morning in shorts, jerseys and helmets. Due to the extracurricular contact and injuries suffered to linebacker Derrick Books (hyperextended knee) and running back Jamel White (concussion) on Wednesday, the health of the team was one of the reasons why Jon Gruden had the players leave their pads in the locker room. The weather was sunny, hot and humid this morning, so not practicing in pads was a welcome treat for the players.
All eyes were on new Bucs wide receiver Tim Brown in the morning session. The 38-year old wideout had a good, but not great first workout with his new team, but admitted after practice that he doesn't like training camp or the preseason too much.
Brown lined up against Gruden during individual drills and the two old friends enjoyed going toe-to-toe with each other. Make no illusions though, Gruden covered Brown for about a half a second before the 16-year veteran juked him and hauled in a pass.
Is Brown a dangerous receiver in the present day? It's hard to tell. He's not as dangerous as he once was, but understand that this offense gets receivers open, even though he's not as fast as he once was.
Brown seems to have a knack for locating holes in zone coverage quickly. He gets the right depth in his routes and it appears as if understanding and running option routes is one of his strengths. After the practice, Brown said that he was extremely comfortable in Gruden's offense and that the terminology is virtually the same.
Rookie wide receiver Mark Jones had a nice day catching the ball. After a great start to training camp, Jones hit a wall after a week, but seems to have found his second wind. He made several nice catches in stride today and really showed off his electrifying quickness.
Brian Griese throws a nice, tight spiral. Perhaps the prettiest passer of the Bucs' four quarterbacks in camp. However, he was erratic with his passes in team drills such as 7-on-7 or 11-on-11. Griese has had his moments in training camp, but Chris Simms has been more impressive and is ahead of Griese in our evaluation. Griese was intercepted by rookie cornerback Lenny Williams this morning and didn't have a good practice. Williams also broke up a pass attempt on Wednesday.
The Bucs offense was going through various sets, shifts and motions during practice today to tune up for the upcoming preseason game against Cincinnati.
In 11-on-11 drills, cornerback Ronde Barber intercepted a pass thrown by Simms. In 7-on-7 drills later in the morning workout, he almost picked off a pass from Brad Johnson intended for Michael Clayton. Barber was very active this morning and looked good.
Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin blew his stack and threw his play-call sheet to the ground when cornerback Torrie Cox blew an assignment. After getting off to a fast start in camp, Cox has cooled off a bit, but CB Mario Edwards hasn't got hot, either, which still makes this battle for the nickel corner job interesting.
The offensive line worked on pulling, turning and hitting in their individual drills. The Bucs may pull their guards and tackles to the perimeter more this season to take advantage the speed in their backfield with the addition of players like Charlie Garner and Jamel White.
Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks, who sat out this morning's practice with a hyperextended knee, was playing the role of coach today. He was standing by the coaches and had a defensive playsheet. Fellow veteran linebacker Jeff Gooch was hovering next to Brooks and following the play-call list, too. Gooch's left foot was in a boot brace to take care of his shin splints.
Rookie LB Marquis Cooper took some reps in Brooks' place Wednesday, but he was caught out of position on a pass play for tight end Ken Dilger. Ryan Nece, who started at strongside linebacker last season, made a nice pass defensed in the flat during the morning session. Nece needs to come up with a lot more of those plays in order to make the team since Ian Gold has practically secured the starting SLB job already.
Running back Charlie Garner runs with a great body lean. His shoulders are low and his knees are always bent, unlike Michael Pittman, who runs upright. Because he runs with a compact running style, Garner actually presents a smaller target to defenders than his 5-foot-10, 190-pound frame would suggest.
Fullback Greg Comella continued to shine in the passing game by hauling in a pass down the right seam for a 25-yard gain. Comella is faster than advertised and has displayed good hands and decent blocking skills thus far.
It's clear that tight end Dave Moore will win the long snapping duties in training camp. So why is long snapper John Garrison still on the team? The answer is because punter Josh Bidwell and kicker Martin Gramatica can practice their punts and kicks without having to haul Moore away from his tight end drills and responsibilities on offense.
Tight end Nate Lawrie had a sub-par outing, dropping a pass in team drills and also not turning around quickly enough for another pass, which drew criticism from Gruden.
"You've got to get your head around on a three-step drop!" Gruden shouted.
Perhaps the play of the morning practice was when wide receiver Edell Shepherd, who is sporting jersey number three now, caught a pass in the left flat and immediately put a juke move on rookie safety Will Allen. Allen was caught flat-footed and absolutely lost his jock on the play while Shepherd blew past him for some serious yards after the catch.
Strongside linebacker Ryan Nece made two nice plays in practice. He would have had a sack on a blitz from the edge when tight end Rickey Dudley missed his block. The other play was when he broke up a pass intended for Pittman near the end of practice.
The Bucs afternoon practice was cut very short due to thunderstorms in the Orlando area. Fullback Deon Dyer, cornerback Ronyell Whitaker, tight end Doug Zeigler and guard Matt Stinchcomb were among the players held out of practice in the afternoon. All were riding the stationary bikes. Zeigler had a boot brace on his right foot, but Gruden did not disclose or mention what type of injury he had suffered after practice.
Dave Moore and Nate Lawrie took turns shifting formations from the tight end position to the fullback spot on certain plays.
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