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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the field Monday morning under sunny skies and hot and muggy conditions. Only half of the two-hour morning practice was a full-padded workout. Bucs head coach Jon Gruden allowed his players to take their pads off midway through the practice.

Tackle Matt Stinchcomb (calf), fullback Jameel Cook (knee), wide receiver Charles Lee (hamstring) and linebacker Jeff Gooch (shin splint) were held out of practice Monday.

Defensive lineman Ellis Wyms, fullback Deon Dyer, tackle Todd Steussie, defensive end Reinard Wilson and wide receiver Joey Galloway returned to practice on Monday morning.

NFL Films was on hand for the morning practice and put a mic on Gruden, who was as animated as ever during wide receiver warm-ups, starting when “Chucky” worked with the receivers on getting the necessary width and depth on their routes.

“Reach for the ball,” said Gruden. “Cut the flight time down.”

From there, Gruden grabbed a blocking pad and hit the receivers with it immediately after they hauled in passes, a drill that helps to improve concentration and ball protection skills.

“Don’t be tiptoeing through here like there’s a bunch of landmines now,” Gruden told his receivers.”

Gruden split the receivers up, putting the Xs (split-ends) and Zs (flankers) on opposite sides of the field.

Joey Galloway, D’Wayne Bates, James Williams and Marcus Knight lined up at X (split-end). Michael Clayton, Bill Schroeder, Edell Shepherd, Mark Jones and Frank Murphy lined up as flankers (Zs).

Most of the players, including the receivers, looked like they benefited from receiving two afternoons off in a row, which led to an impressive morning practice.

“Nice job today, boys,” Gruden said as the receiver warm-up drills ended.

Speaking of receivers, Shepherd put a fantastic juke move on safety Kalvin Pearson to get open for a touchdown in 7-on-7 drills. Shepherd would later make a great over-the-head catch in the corner of the end zone vs. cornerback Torrie Cox for another score.

Clayton, Galloway, Farmer and Murphy, who had an impressive morning session, also caught touchdowns. Schroeder and Knight dropped what should have been easy catches during the morning workout.

Cox probably had his most sub-par morning practice of camp. He was involved in several scoring plays, including touchdown strikes to Galloway and Shepherd. While he was in position to make plays on most of the passes, Cox needs to do a better job of turning around and looking for the football. He had done that throughout camp until Monday morning’s practice, so it should be interesting to see if Cox can mentally rebound from his poor showing.

During 7-on-7 drills, Bucs linebacker Michael Brown continued to impress by making a great, wrap-up tackle on running back Brandon Bennett, which resulted in a 2-yard loss. Brown also made a great tackle during 11-on-11 drills. Don’t look now, but this guy could sneak his way onto the active roster.

Linebacker Edward Thomas finished the first 7-on-7 drill of the morning session with a bang, drilling Bennett with a helmet-to-helmet hit behind the line of scrimmage. However, Farmer later beat Thomas for a touchdown pass from quarterback Brad Johnson in the same type of drill.

Tampa Bay practiced goal line drills again this morning, but it didn’t do it with pads on since this drill took place after the 10-minute cool down period.

Having players without pads on made this drill kind of uneventful for spectators, but there were still a few plays that stood out.

Pearson and middle linebacker Keith Burns had a chance to intercept a pass in the end zone, but after both players bobbled the ball in the air, tight end Will Heller came in and stole the pigskin from both defenders for the score. Defensively, defensive end Corey Smith worked his way into the backfield on one play and would have sacked QB Brian Griese.

Things are getting very interesting on the offensive line, where Kenyatta Walker has quietly put together some impressive practices. However, guard Kerry Jenkins, who is actually listed as the starting left guard, and center Austin King, could be hard pressed to make the team this season because of the impressive camps put together by Cosey Coleman and Jason Whittle thus far.

Starting left tackle Derrick Deese was unable to finish the morning practice. He limped off the field with what was said to be the same foot injury that kept him out of practice for several days last week. Although the Bucs said they aren’t concerned about it, Deese’s nagging foot injury could force the Pewter Pirates to start second-year player Anthony Davis at left tackle on Saturday night vs. Cincinnati. The good news is Davis has received a lot of reps and has looked impressive in camp.

After watching tailback Jamel White closely Monday, it’s hard to figure out why he could only average 3.8 yards per carry during his four-year tenure with Cleveland. White is a shifty runner and has great stop-and-start speed. He also has the hands out of the backfield that are so important in Gruden’s offense. White showed great cutting ability during Monday morning’s practice.

Fullback Greg Comella and safety Dwight Smith were involved in a heated battle during four-minute drills after Comella picked up Smith on a blitz in the backfield and put him on the ground. Comella wouldn’t let Smith up after the play and had a firm handle on his facemask, which caught the ire of Smith, who managed to work his way through his teammates and land a punch on Comella’s helmet while the two players were being separated.

That skirmish occurred midway through practice. Smith was limited during the second part of the morning practice, but he told PewterReport.com that it had nothing to do with the scuffle.

“We were just working some other guys in there today,” said Smith. “That was just the rotation for the practice.”

Smith did, however, receive some action on special teams as a kickoff returner when the morning practice resumed. Smith has the speed and field vision to be an effective return specialist, but it appears as though his fielding kickoffs on Monday morning was simply part of a contingency plan since rookie WR Mark Jones is listed as the team’s primary kickoff returner on the depth chart.

Kicker Martin Gramatica received some work in the morning practice when team held field goal drills. After missing his first attempt, a 42-yarder, Gramatica drilled his next five kicks through uprights.

From there, the Bucs went back to 7-on-7 drills.

Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson threw a touchdown pass to Farmer while QB Brian Griese tossed a touchdown pass to Galloway.

Quarterback Chris Simms was the most impressive signal caller, though. Simms had an awesome morning practice, perhaps the most impressive session we’ve seen him have in camp as a Buc. He hit Galloway in stride for a 40-yard touchdown just one play after Knight muffed the pass from Johnson. Simms also threw touchdown passes to Clayton and Shepherd and delivered some nice throws throughout the morning session. Simms is starting to play with some real confidence and appears to have the edge over Brian Griese for the No. 2 job.

“I’ll say this about the big lefty… he’s got a rifle for an arm,” Gruden said of Simms. “He’s throwing the ball extremely well right now and his mobility is something we consider a big plus.”

However, Gruden said he would likely rotate both quarterbacks at the No. 2 spot during preseason games.

“It’s very close,” Gruden said of the competition at the backup QB spot. “We’re going to have a formula we use throughout the preseason that may appear to some people that one guy is ahead of the other, but we’ll make that decision at the very end of training camp. We want to give Brian and Chris ample opportunity to play with each unit during preseason. One has to play ahead of the other and then the next week the other one will play ahead of the other. We’ll work a rotation that’s fair. It will be all based on performance. We’re charting everything they do.”

AFTERNOON PRACTICE:
Tampa Bay once again took the field under sunny skies and extremely hot and humid temperatures. The Bucs, who were in shorts, jerseys and helmets, spent the first 20 minutes or so working on fundamentals and technique.

The defensive linemen worked on dummy drills while the defensive backs worked on taking good angles in coverage. The DBs also practiced returning interceptions from their own end zone.

The offensive linemen spent a good portion of time working on developing hand speed.

From there, the Bucs worked in 11-on-11 drills. Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson didn’t exactly start this drill off on the right foot. He was nearly picked off by cornerback Ronde Barber on the first play and was nearly intercepted a few plays later.

Cornerback Torrie Cox showed some mental toughness by rebounding from a sub-par morning practice, making a couple of great plays and taking good angles in coverage.

Bucs punter Josh Bidwell got to work on directional punting. He didn’t do a bad job, either. He pinned one of his punts on the 2-yard line on a directional kick to the right side of the field.

Wide receiver Joey Galloway picked up where he left off in the morning by hauling in a fade pass deep down the sideline for a big gain.

Speaking of Galloway, he lined up as a quarterback in the shotgun formation during 11-on-11 drills. Brad Johnson was shifted out to the X (split-end) receiver spot. Galloway took the snap and threw a screen pass to running back Michael Pittman, who awaited the pass in the flat. The Bucs ran this same play during the June mini-camp, except Galloway had the option to roll out to either his right or left and also had the option of running or throwing the ball.


This story is intended to be read by PewterInsider subscribers only. Sharing of the PI content with non-subscribers of this service can result in cancellation of your subscription to the service and/or further actions by the publishers. Be sure to read the latest issue of Pewter Report on-line in PDF format on PewterReport.com. Buccaneers merchandise in the world.

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