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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers held only one practice on Saturday as it was “Family Day.” After a two-hour morning workout in shells (shoulder pads, helmets, jerseys and shorts), the players and coaches got the afternoon off to spend time with their families. Practice was held under sunny, hot and humid conditions.

Tampa Bay made a roster move on Saturday, releasing cornerback Reuben Houston and re-signing corner Dwight Ellick, who had been released just prior to the start of camp. Houston had a dreadful camp and simply wasn’t making any plays in individual or team drills.

Tight end Alex Smith missed another practice on Saturday due to a tight hamstring. After practice, he told PewterReport.com that his absence was precautionary in nature and that he expected to return to practice on Sunday.

Running back Michael Pittman was missing altogether from practice. Pittman had a wisdom tooth pulled earlier in the week and was still experiencing some pain and discomfort from the tooth, so he spent Saturday morning in the doctor’s office. Pittman should return to practice on Sunday.

The stands were full at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex for Saturday morning’s practice, and Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin got the crowd fired up by getting them to chant, “Defense, defense.”

The Buccaneers spent one of the first individual practice periods working with a wet football. The quarterbacks and running backs were doing wet ball drills where some of the Bucs’ practice staff would submerge several footballs in a bucket of water and then snap the ball to the quarterbacks, who would then throw the wet balls to the backs who were running pass patterns out of the backfield.

Several running backs had trouble catching the wet balls, including Earnest Graham, Derek Watson and Jacque Lewis, who collectively dropped three passes in a row. Fullback Rick Razzano also dropped a pass. Quarterback Chris Simms was using a glove during the wet ball drills so he could get a better grip on the ball.

After passing the ball to the running backs, Simms and the other quarterbacks were practicing handing off a wet ball to the running backs. Fortunately, all handoffs were clean and there were no fumbled exchanges.

Simms might have had his worst practice of training camp on Saturday morning. He was off on several passes and tried to force several throws into tight coverage.

During an 11-on-11 drills, Simms’ pass was too high for wide receiver Edell Shepherd, who tipped the ball up in the air and watched it land in the arms of safety Steve Cargile for the interception.

In Simms’ defense, Tampa Bay’s defense was playing inspired football on Saturday morning. Its defenders made several great pass breakups, especially in a red zone drill in an 11-on-11 session, where safety Jermaine Phillips, cornerback Juran Bolden and linebackers Antoine Cash and Wesly Mallard each broke up a pass from the quarterback.

Although he also had some passes defensed, rookie QB Bruce Gradkowski tossed several impressive passes, including one that he threw across his body to WR Maurice Stovall, who came up with the grab during a 7-on-7 session.

Bucs QB Tim Rattay might have had his best practice. His spirals were tight and he seemed to be throwing with more strength than normal. Rattay tossed a beautiful pass down the left sideline for WR David Boston for a touchdown in an 11-on-11 session. He also did a much better job of selling the screen on a few plays.

Wide receiver Michael Clayton made an amazing, one-handed catch while running a deep slant pattern across the middle of the field in individual drills. Quarterback Tim Rattay threw a 20-yard bullet and Clayton stuck his left hand out and effortlessly hauled in the pass. Bucs second-year WR J.R. Russell also made a nice catch near the sideline during this period, but he followed that great play up with a dropped pass on his next attempt.

Right tackle Sam Lightbody had an impressive day today. He likely won’t make the team due to the numbers game (Anthony Davis, Kenyatta Walker, Jeremy Trueblood, Scott Jackson and Torrin Tucker), but his skills are really developing. The 6-foot-9, 325-pound offensive lineman had a couple of good one-on-one and team sessions going up against defensive end Dewayne White and won those battles. If he continues to have a good camp and plays well in the preseason, Lightbody could be brought back for another tour of duty on the practice squad.

Tucker missed practice again with a right knee/leg injury and doesn’t look like he’ll be returning to practice for a few more days. Given Tucker’s lackluster showing in training camp thus far, he really can’t afford to be injured – especially with a strong showing by the versatile Scott Jackson, who has been getting reps at both tackle positions in addition to center and guard.

It’s still early, but Tucker has a lot of catching up to do and the odds of him not making the team are growing. When healthy, he was not even coming close to challenging Anthony Davis, who is having a fine camp, for the starting left tackle job.

Starting right tackle Kenyatta Walker continues to miss some practice time to rest his sore knee. Walker typically misses some practice each summer to prevent undue wear and tear on his legs, which have given him problems over the last two years.

The Bucs know what they have in Walker, though, and don’t mind that he’s missing reps, especially because those extra reps go to second-round pick, Jeremy Trueblood. Tampa Bay is secretly hoping that Trueblood can put together an outstanding preseason and move closer to unseating Walker. Don’t expect that to happen at the start of the 2006 season, though, as Trueblood has a lot of work to do to put himself in that position.

Bucs running back Earnest Graham broke off a huge run for a touchdown during an 11-on-11 drill. Rookie guard Davin Joseph, who has put together several solid practices in a row, made a great block to open the hole for Graham on that play.

Tampa Bay’s offense ended a two-minute drill on a sour note Saturday morning when fullback Mike Alstott fumbled the football. This mistake was quite costly as the drill called for the Bucs offense to simply run out the clock in an effort to not give the defense the ball back. Luckily for Alstott, one of his teammates managed to recover the football.

Cornerback Torrie Cox is quietly putting together a real solid training camp. Cox hasn’t made many mistakes from Pewter Report’s estimation and has made several plays in practice over the past few days. Today, Cox made a nice pass breakup in 11-on-11 drills in the end zone by leaping up and swatting down a pass intended for 6-foot-5, wide receiver Chas Gessner.

After a disappointing 2005 season in which he fell down the depth chart on both kick returns and at cornerback, Cox seems to be rebounding well and is battling seventh-round draft pick Justin Phinisee for the fifth and final cornerback position behind Ronde Barber, Brian Kelly, Juran Bolden and Alan Zemaitis.

During the special teams portion of practice, Tampa Bay kicker Xavier Beitia remained perfect in training camp by drilling two more field goal attempts. Beitia has not missed an attempt in camp thus far. Bucs K Matt Bryant was 1-of-1 on a field goal attempt. His second attempt turned into a fake field goal that called for punter Josh Bidwell to throw a pass. Due to the fact that Pewter Report does not want to give away Tampa Bay’s strategy on these particular plays, we will not disclose which player was on the receiving end of that pass or where the ball was thrown to.

The Buccaneers will hold a Sunday morning practice at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex, but will conduct a private practice at a different location in the afternoon that will be closed to the fans and the media.


This story is intended to be read by Pewter Insider 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.



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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: sr@pewterreport.com
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