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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers returned to practice on Monday for the first time since their preseason 27-20 loss to the Tennessee Titans. The Bucs practiced under overcast skies and temperatures in the 80s. Less than 48 hours after the preseason opener, the Bucs practiced in shorts, jerseys, and helmets.
Several Bucs returned to practice on Monday after missing significant practice time and Saturday's preseason opener at Tennessee. Wide receivers Michael Clayton (hamstring) and Joel Filani (hamstring), center Jeff Faine, linebacker Angelo Crowell and tight end Jason Pociask were among those Bucs on the mend participating in practice.
Wide receivers Antonio Bryant (knee surgery), Dexter Jackson (ankle), Kelly Campbell (quad), kicker Matt Bryant (hamstring), safety Will Allen (shoulder), linebackers Matt McCoy (leg) and Rod Wilson (hamstring) and cornerbacks Aqib Talib (undisclosed) and Kyle Arrington (groin) did not practice on Monday.
The Buccaneers warmed up with Michael Jackson's "Thriller" being played over the speakers, and a number of retired Bucs veterans were in attendance watching practice on the sideline. Those veterans included punter Mark Royals and safety Mark Robinson.
Much of practice was at a pace that was not much more than a walk-through, as the offense and defense had periods of install and scout teamwork. Despite the slow pace, there were a few plays and concepts that stood out.
Quarterback Luke McCown was very cognizant of pushing the ball downfield early in practice. He threw a number of passes deep down the field including a nice catch by wide receiver Maurice Stovall who was being trailed by linebacker Quincy Black. McCown connected with Clayton for about a 15-yard gain after the veteran wide receiver found a soft spot in zone coverage.
McCown had another pass downfield intended for tight end Kellen Winslow batted away by rookie cornerback E.J. Biggers. Winslow gave some encouragement to Biggers and fellow rookie defensive back Marshall McDuffie after the play.
Quarterback Byron Leftwich followed suit with throwing passes deep. Rookie wide receiver Sammie Stroughter had a bad drop on a downfield crossing route. The rookie receiver was angry with himself after that play. Stroughter got in a lot of reps fielding punts during the special teams part of practice. Also fielding balls was running back Kareem Huggins.
Leftwich tossed a pair of 50-yard touchdown passes to wide receiver Brian Clark. On the first Clark got behind safety Sabby Piscitelli. The second touchdown came after Clark ran away from Biggers and DeAngelo Willingham. The two rookie defenders conferred after the play. It seemed that Biggers passed Clark off to Willingham in coverage, but Willingham thought Biggers was going to stay on Clark.
Running the scout team offense for the benefit of the Bucs first and second team defense was primarily quarterback Josh Johnson. In the period Johnson threw some nice passes, and forced some pass into coverage because that is where he is supposed to throw the ball to prepare the defense. On one of those passes deep down the sideline cornerback Torrie Cox leaped and picked the pass off in front of Clayton. The veteran receiver was getting some extra reps in the period, and did not make an effort to break up the interception or rip the ball away from Cox. It was a nice play on the ball by Cox. He showed good hands, and timed his jump perfectly.
Pociask had a bad drop during this period as well.
Tanard Jackson lined up as a nickel cornerback on a number of plays, and showed some skill as a blitzer. He sacked quarterback Josh Freeman on his first rush, and pressured him on a few others. Jackson's ability to weave through the line in a hurry and spring himself onto an unaware quarterback was very reminiscent of veteran quarterback Ronde Barber.
The defense had some struggles showing a blitz on one play that defensive coordinator Jim Bates made them repeat the start of a few times. Before the snap a few defenders were supposed to show blitz, but jump back to other landmarks after a running back or receiver went in motion.
"Start it over," yelled Bates. "Do it again."
The Bucs had to repeat that pre-snap fake a few times before Bates was ready to let them actually run the play. Bates had his defenders work on trapping off wide receives between a cornerback in he flat and a linebacker running in from the box.
"That's it, trap them off," shouted Bates.
Freeman got in some work with the scout team offense as well. His first pass was off the mark and hit McDuffie in the chest intended for Clayton. McDuffie was livid with himself for dropping the interception, and did pushups after the play. Freeman saw some unique looks from the defense in his scout team work. Freeman had a mixed day in the scout team and in his two-minute drill. Defensive end Louis Holmes had a sack of Freeman on a play that the rookie signal caller completed a pass to Stroughter.
The Bucs ran a pair of two-minute drive possessions to close out practice. The Bucs needed a touchdown with just more than two-minutes on the clock. McCown and Freeman were the quarterbacks who got turns guiding the possessions. McCown went first.
On the first play the Bucs offense did a zone right rush with running back Derrick Ward for a short gain to take them to the two-minute warning. McCown worked the ball to his tight ends regularly on the drive. He started out with a completion to tight end Jerramy Stevens for a good gain, and the defense jumped offsides on the next play.
McCown's next pass of the drive was about a 12-yard gain to Stevens who ran an out route against linebacker Jermaine Phillips. Stevens got out of bounds to stop the clock. Winslow caught McCown's next pass for a short gain and got out of bounds. The short completion was all the offense could get as defensive end Jimmy Wilkerson pressured McCown out of the pocket, and he did not have downfield targets open that quickly on the play.
McCown's next pass was dropped by Ward, and McCown may have been sacked on the play by defensive end Gaines Adams. Rushing from left defensive end Adams beat right tackle Jeremy Trueblood to cause McCown to step up in the pocket. Defensive tackle Chris Hovan had a good push on the play.
The next pass was a perfect toss from McCown. Clayton ran into the end zone on a nine route and had Cox running with him almost step-for-step. McCown lofted a brilliant pass right into the hands of Clayton over his shoulders where the only the wideout could make the catch. The veteran receiver dropped the touchdown pass, which caused a number of groans from fans and the team. McCown looked disappointed after that play, and came back to try again for a touchdown on fourth-and-5.
McCown threw another 30-yard pass into the end zone this time for Winslow. The pass was too long and sailed incomplete. Winslow was being held by Barber as he ran downfield. A penalty could easily have been called on Barber but was not.
Freeman's two-minute drive started out with him overthrowing tight end Ryan Purvis. He came back to connect with Stroughter for a completion against Hayward, and then a completion to Purvis for a nice gain. The next play Freeman was sacked by Holmes after he beat left tackle Xavier Fulton around the edge.
Freeman held onto the ball too long, and did not get a throw off. It was a rare occurrence in camp, but the Bucs actually counted the sack and moved the offense back to the spot where Holmes got to Freeman. They did not follow suit later in the drive when Freeman appeared to be sacked again.
Freeman faced a fourth-and-2 that he converted with a five-yard completion to wide receiver Pat Carter. Freeman appeared to be sacked on the play. Freeman went back to Carter for a seven or eight-yard gain against McDuffie.
Freeman moved the ball downfield on three completions to wide receiver Mario Urrutia. One of them was a long gain that Urrutia caught along the sideline. It looked as if Urrutia did not make the catch in bounds, but the officials credited him with the catch.
The Bucs brought in their goal line offense and had a good play called on first down. Freeman performed a play action rollout and lofted an easy touchdown pass into Stevens who beat linebacker Niko Koutouvides running across the end zone.
After practice the quarterbacks got in some extra work with quarterbacks coach Greg Olson. They mainly concentrated on footwork. Phillips, Piscitelli, and Barber did some extra running together. Fulton got some one-on-one tutoring from offensive line coach Pete Mangurian and tight ends coach Alfredo Roberts.