The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the field for their Monday morning training camp practice at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex wearing shells, which consist of shorts, jerseys, shoulder pads and helmets.
This morning’s practice was held in hot and humid conditions.
After calisthenics, the Bucs broke off into different parts of the fields to work on individual drills. Bucs head coach Jon Gruden attempted to put a little pep in the players’ step by blasting music out of speakers that would later be used to simulate crowd noise.
The players apparently liked the song selection. In fact, when they weren’t taking warm-up reps, wide receivers Michael Clayton and Maurice Stovall collaborated on their touchdown celebration dance moves. The Bucs, who scored just 20 offensive touchdowns in 2006, are hoping to see Clayton and Stovall dance quite a bit in 2007.
The fact that the Bucs took the field in shells this morning is noteworthy. In previous training camps, Gruden almost never has the team put shoulder pads back on in training camp once the team has played its first preseason game.
One of the reasons players were able to sport shoulder pads this morning was because the team is much healthier than it’s been in previous camps.
In fact, left tackle Luke Petitgout, wide receiver Michael Clayton, linebacker Barrett Ruud and safety Sabby Piscitelli, all of whom missed Friday night’s game due to their respective ailments, practiced for the second consecutive day on Monday.
However, Gruden is also attempting to prepare his football team to face a very physical team in the Jacksonville Jaguars.
During warm-ups, Tampa Bay wide receivers Michael Clayton and Mark Jones each dropped a pass. Needless to say, those drops did not please Gruden.
“Concentrate,” Gruden yelled. “Let’s get a good flow going here.”
Unfortunately for Gruden’s offense, that flow never came this morning, or at least not in the first half of the workout. The practice this morning was extremely physical in nature, but the defense dominated more often than not.
Bucs 10-time Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks helped to set the tone early for the defense during the first 9-on-7 session when he sniffed out a handoff to running back Cadillac Williams for a 2-yard loss. Two plays later, Brooks worked his way filled a gap and forced rookie running back Kenneth Darby to cut the ball outside, where defensive end Kevin Carter was waiting for him.
Gruden and Bucs offensive line coach Bill Muir emphasized the importance of being physical and holding off defenders, particularly the defensive linemen.
“Let me see some chips,” Muir yelled referring to chip blocking.
Tight end Jerramy Stevens had a busy and productive practice as a receiver, but Gruden challenged him to step up his game in the 9-on-7 running play session.
“Let’s get something done here, Jerramy Stevens,” Gruden yelled.
But Tampa Bay’s offense couldn’t really get much done during this drill. Nose tackle Ryan Sims stuffed Williams on another running play.
Rookie linebacker Quincy Black had an outstanding practice this morning. During the 9-on-7 session, Black sniffed out a pitch to running back Earnest Graham and stuffed the former Florida Gator for a loss. On the last play of the 9-on-7 session, Black displayed the type of physical play Gruden wanted to see when he raced to the line of scrimmage and met fullback Michael Pittman head on. Black put his helmet down and knocked Pittman, who was the lead blocker on the play, off of his feet.
Tampa Bay defeated New England in its preseason opener on Friday night, 13-10. However, you wouldn’t have known it based on Gruden’s level of frustration with how his offense was performing this morning.
Not only did Gruden not like how his offense was faring in this drill, the head coach also didn’t care for the offense’s pace.
“Break the huddle,” Gruden yelled to quarterback Bruce Gradkowski and the offense. “Would you break the damn huddle like an NFL team please? Stop reading your press clippings.”
After the 9-on-7 session ended , Tampa Bay conducted an 11-on-11 session. With the Bucs headed to Jacksonville to play the Jaguars on Saturday night, Gruden had crowd noise pumped out of the speakers on the field.
Black, who showed that he’s a willing and able run defender during the 9-on-7 session, put his pass coverage skills on display in the full team drill by getting his hand on a quarterback Jeff Garcia pass, which was intended for tight end Anthony Becht. The pass fell incomplete.
Speaking of Garcia, he did not have a great practice this morning. One of his passes thrown down the left sideline for WR Ike Hilliard looked like a wounded duck, and it fell incomplete. Tampa Bay’s quarterbacks also had some problems with the center exchange this morning. Garcia was involved in at least one of those mishaps, which resulted in a fumble during the first 11-on-11 session.
Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber gave Garcia a lot of problems during the full team session. Garcia’s pass to the flat, which was intended for WR Mark Jones, was nearly intercepted by Barber, who did a great job of jumping the route.
Brooks joined Barber and the rest of Tampa Bay’s defense in shutting down the Bucs’ offense by defending a pass from Garcia to Pittman on a slant pattern during the full team drill.
Garcia wasn’t the only signal caller that struggled this morning. Backup QB Luke McCown started off the 11-on-11 session strong by executing a screen pass to Williams to perfection. However, McCown’s next pass attempt, which was intended for WR Chas Gessner, was poorly thrown and nearly intercepted by CB Carlos Hendricks.
Tampa Bay’s offensive line looked a little different this morning. Luke Petitgout, who was held out of more than a week’s worth of training camp practice with a back ailment, returned to practice on Sunday afternoon and gave it a go again on Monday morning.
Petitgout even mixed it up during the 11-on-11 session, which was quite physical. With Petitgout in the starting lineup, rookie Arron Sears took first-team reps at left guard, which left Anthony Davis taking second-team reps.
Tampa Bay’s defensive line also had some changes. Kevin Carter took the majority of first-team reps at left end in place of Greg Spires, who played mostly with the second-team. Carter also took a significant amount of reps at under tackle this morning. After Monday morning’s practice concluded, Gruden suggested the Bucs were going to take a closer look at Carter during Saturday night’s preseason contest.
Tampa Bay dedicated a portion of the morning practice to special teams work. Kicker Matt Bryant was put to the test when he was asked to kick six field goals.
Bryant made his first three attempts, but his fourth sailed wide to the left. However, Bryant, who made two field goals against the Patriots on Friday night, including the game-winner, finished this drill strong by making two field goals, including a 50-yarder. He went 5-of-6.
Despite the fact that Tampa Bay’s offense might have had its worst outing of this year’s training camp on Monday morning, Gruden elected to have the players take their shoulder pads off during the cool down period.
The Bucs offense definitely played better during the second half of practice. Things didn’t start off well, though, as linebacker Cato June tipped Garcia’s pass across the middle of the field intended for Hilliard to cause the incompletion.
From there, Tampa Bay began putting its tight ends to good use in the passing game. Garcia threw a nice pass 20 yards down field for TE Alex Smith, who ran a crossing pattern and got himself open against two defenders to make the catch.
On the next play of the 7-on-7 session, Garcia threw a perfect strike down the right sideline to WR David Boston, who had gotten himself open vs. Barber and safety Will Allen.
While the offense made some plays during the second half of practice, there was no consistency. Black’s fellow rookie linebacker, Adam Hayward, showed impressive pass coverage by defending a pass thrown by QB Chris Simms to WR Chad Owens during a 7-on-7 session.
Simms was limited again on Monday morning, and he continued to struggle. During the same session, Simms’ pass to fullback B.J. Askew was nearly intercepted by Brooks.
Tampa Bay finished this morning’s workout with an 11-on-11 two-minute drill. With crowd noise pumping through the speakers and 1:30 posted on the scoreboard clock, McCown was given the opportunity to lead the offense from Tampa Bay’s own 20-yard line. Gruden called plays in to McCown with a walky-talky.
Things did not start off well for McCown, whose first pass toward the left sideline was nearly intercepted by Barber.
However, McCown rebounded from that near mishap by completing two straight passes to Clayton to get the ball down to the defense’s 35-yard line. McCown also hooked up with Stevens across the middle of the field for a big gain.
The session ended at the goal line. Gruden spent a good portion of the morning practice pulling his hair out of his head due to his offense’s mistakes. But it was defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin who became upset during the goal line drill when his defense failed to line up properly.
Before the ball could be snapped, Kiffin walked onto the field and screamed for a timeout. He then had the entire defense huddle up around him while he reamed them out and set them straight on their assignments. The goal line session ended with an incomplete pass in the back of the end zone.
Tampa Bay is scheduled to hold a two-hour practice at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex on Monday afternoon.
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